How does Macduff react to discovering Duncan's body?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Macduff is initially annoyed that he's been knocking on the door and Macbeth has taken so long to answer. Macduff is supposed to wake up Duncan, but he has had to wait for Macbeth. Macduff takes his duties to the king seriously because he is loyal.

Upon discovering Duncan's body, Macduff is horrified. At first, he can not even find the words to describe what he has seen. He says "Tongue nor heart / Cannot conceive nor name thee." (II.iii.67) He then finds the words. He says "Confusion hath made his masterpiece." (68) He means that it is a perfect work (masterpiece) of destruction (confusion). He calls the murder sacrilegious because it seems so unholy and because kings were thought to be ordained by God. He tells Macbeth and Lennox that the sight is so horrible, it will turn them to stone. He references the Gorgon (Medusa), a monster so horrible to look at that she would turn one to stone.

Macduff cries out that it is treason and summons Malcolm and Donalbain from their sleep. Macduff is clearly outraged and disgusted. As a loyal subject to the king, he is extremely disheartened. And the sight of Ducnan's murdered boy must be gruesome, given Macduff's horrified reaction.


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