How does King Edward, who is described in Act Four, Scene 3, contrast with Macbeth?

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teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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King Edward appears to be the polar opposite of Macbeth. According to three witnesses, Macduff, Malcolm, and Ross, Macbeth has been a disaster for Scotland. The Scottish people are bleeding, wounded, and dying because of Macbeth's evil. The country is sick. Macduff describes it as follows:

Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows
Strike heaven on the face.
Malcolm says:
I think our country sinks beneath the yoke.
It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash
Is added to her wounds.
Ross brings the report that in Scotland:
...good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.
In contrast, King Edward is so virtuous a king that he cures his people's illnesses with his touch. In contrast to Macbeth, who relies on the deceptive and false prophecies of witches, Edward has the true gift of prophecy. 
 
Shakespeare is at pains to show that a virtuous king, one who is chaste, honest, unselfish and pure, will gain gifts from heaven that will make his people well. On the other hand, kings like Macbeth, who base their power on evil deeds, spread the sickness of their evil to their people. King Edward is said to cure the evil that causes illnesses; Macbeth spreads the evil that leads to illness and death.
 
Shakespeare, in this play, examines the role of the good king. Only a morally virtuous king can bring healing and benefits to his people. The moral character of a king is all important to the overall health of a nation. Macbeth harms far more than himself: he harms an entire country. 
gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Act Four, Scene 3, Malcolm asks the Doctor if King Edward is coming out. The Doctor responds by telling Malcolm that a crowd of people have gathered and are waiting for King Edward to heal them. The Doctor proceeds to explain to Malcolm that King Edward has been given a special power from heaven to heal people by simply touching them. Malcolm then mentions to Macduff that he had witnessed King Edward's special gift and recalled a time when King Edward healed several people who had strange illnesses. Also, King Edward has the gift of prophecy and will bequeath his ability to heal others to his royal descendants. All of King Edward's unique gifts are signs that he is in God's favor. King Edward is described as a benevolent ruler who is loved by God and his subjects. 

In contrast, Macbeth has a murderous touch, and his subjects fear him. Also, Macbeth does not possess unique gifts, nor is he in God's favor. Macbeth's descendants will not inherit his throne, and he is essentially cursed by his own ambition. 

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