How does Macduff react in Act 4 Scene 3 when he hears that his family has been slaughtered?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act 4, scene 3 of Macbeth, Macduff is hiding out in England, having fled Macbeth's incipient tyranny in Scotland. Ross enters and tells Macduff the terrible news: his whole family has been murdered on the orders of Macbeth. As we would imagine, Macduff is absolutely devastated by the news. But Malcolm urges him to man up and turn his grief to righteous anger:

Be comforted.
Let’s make us med'cines of our great revenge,
To cure this deadly grief.
And also says:
Dispute it like a man.
Macduff will do so; he will act according to the conventions of how an aristocratic male should behave. But at the same time, he won't hide his human feelings; he cannot forget the precious memories of his family. His ensuing revenge against Macbeth won't just be political; it will be personal too.
Macduff's reaction is also tinged with guilt for having abandoned his family, leaving them all alone and vulnerable to Macbeth's terrible vengeance:
Sinful Macduff,
They were all struck for thee! Naught that I am,
Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now.
So when Macduff finally confronts Macbeth and kills him in a duel, he isn't simply carrying out an act of revenge; he is also going some way to assuage the terrible guilt he still feels over the way in which he abandoned his family to their terrible fate.