How Does Malcolm Test Macduff's Loyalty

In act 4, scene 3 of Macbeth, what does Malcolm do to test Macduff to ensure Macduff's loyalty for him?

In act 4, scene 3 of Macbeth, Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty by telling him numerous reasons why Malcolm would not be a good king. Malcolm lists off faults and vices that he does not have in order to claim that he would be a worse king than Macbeth in order to test Macduff's loyalty.

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Of all the great Shakespearean tragedies, Macbeth is the one most lacking in comedy. Apart from a brief episode involving the porter in act 2, scene 3, there is no low comedy in the play. However, one scene which has comic potential that is often overlooked is act 4, scene 3, in which Malcolm tests the loyalty of Macduff.

Malcolm has fled from Scotland because he knows that he is surrounded by enemies there. He has no idea whether Macduff is one of them and is trying to lure him into a trap. He therefore concocts a mass of ludicrous charges against himself to see if Macduff will show the horror that a loyal Scotsman would feel, or if he will simply nod along so that Malcolm will accompany him. However, Malcolm's literal and extreme approach to this test of loyalty leads this mild-mannered boy to portray himself as an absurdly exaggerated figure of Satanic evil:

But I have none: the king-becoming graces,
As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude,
I have no relish of them, but abound
In the division of each several crime,
Acting it many ways. Nay, had I power, I should
Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell,
Uproar the universal peace, confound
All unity on earth.

It takes this comprehensive self-accusation to elicit the desired response from Macduff, who has already decided that Scotland can cope with the monster of lust and avarice that Malcolm has declared himself to be before this speech. Malcolm has to say that he would commit every possible crime in many different ways before Macduff breaks out in despair:

Fit to govern!
No, not to live.

Through these words, Macduff simultaneously shows that he is loyal to Scotland and that he is not playing a trick on Malcolm. Malcolm is then forced to recant, though the self-praise he then heaps on himself to contradict what he has just said might awake the suspicions of a less straightforward nature than Macduff's.

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In act 4, scene 3, Malcolm, the rightful heir to Scotland, returned from England with an army and fighting to wrest the throne from Macbeth, wants to ensure that Macduff's loyalties are first and foremost to Scotland, not him.

He does this by pretending to be a morally terrible person, greedy, lustful, and violent, out to use the country and all its resources for his own pleasure and personal profit, with no concern about the fate of anyone but himself and those few personally loyal to him.

Macduff, who desperately wants to defeat Macbeth, the man who cold-bloodedly had his wife and children slaughtered, tries to hang on to his loyalty to Malcolm, who has the best shot at displacing his hated enemy. However, eventually, his own sense of right and wrong prevails and Macduff recoils from Malcolm, saying he could never support such a man as Malcolm describes himself to be. Macduff puts the well-being of Scotland ahead of personal loyalty to any man or any personal revenge agenda.

Reassured of Macduff's moral fiber, Malcolm explains to him that he is not at all like the person he just described. Malcolm calls himself a "meek" (kind and compassionate) and just ruler. He simply had to know that Macduff cared about Scotland above all.

Through this scene, Shakespeare sharply differentiates Malcolm from Macbeth, who only cares about his own power and is ready to throw Scotland under the bus to hang on to it. Macbeth is an evil tyrant; Malcolm shows he will, like his father, be an exemplary ruler.

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In act 4, scene 3, Macduff visits Malcolm in England and attempts to persuade him to return to Scotland to dethrone the tyrant Macbeth. Although Macduff's intentions are good, Malcolm is reasonably suspicious of him and cleverly decides to test Macduff's loyalty before becoming his ally. Malcolm begins to test Macduff by questioning his decision to leave his wife and children behind in Scotland, where they are in grave danger. Macduff responds by lamenting Macbeth's tyrannical reign and claims that he would not be the villain Malcolm suspects him to be if he was offered the entire kingdom of Scotland.

Malcolm continues to test Macduff's loyalty by listing his numerous flaws and vices, which would make Macbeth seem "pure as snow." Malcolm claims to be lascivious, greedy, and lacking every positive quality of a righteous king. Macduff responds to Malcolm's false claims by saying that he is not fit to live, let alone rule. Macduff then demonstrates his genuine nature by crying for Scotland and commenting that all hope is lost.

Malcolm recognizes that Macduff's reaction is genuine and takes back every negative thing he said about himself. Malcolm knows that if Macduff was Macbeth's spy, it would not have mattered what he said about himself because Macduff would be intent on luring him back to Scotland. Malcolm's false claims elicit a certain response from Macduff, which allows him to accurately judge his intentions. Once Malcolm discovers that Macduff is trustworthy and honest, he agrees to be his ally and begins formulating plans to dethrone Macbeth.

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Malcolm gives a litany of reasons why he wouldn't be a good king.  Malcolm says he's lustful, greedy and has no desire to even become the king.  When Macduff suggests that Malcolm's better qualities would out-weight those vices, Malcolm replies by saying, "But I have none."  Malcolm makes it very clear that he would be a very bad king.  After listing his bad qualities, he gives Macduff an opportunity to make a plea for the kingship.  Macduff, however, does not wish to be king and repeats his statement of support for Malcolm, all the time weeping for Scotland.  This assures Malcolm that Macduff is loyal and will help his cause against Macbeth.

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Malcolm begins by questioning Macduff's motives for leaving his wife and son unprotected. He then goes on to state (falsely) all of his faults and vices that would make him an even worse choice for king that Macbeth.

Malcolm is doing this to test where Macduff's loyalties lie. Malcolm has good reason to be suspicious of everyone , as the murders have spiraled out of control and there is no way to know who is on what side.

When Macduff answers that the crown is rightfully Malcolm's no matter what, and that Macbeth should be stopped at all cost, Malcolm is assured of his honesty and tells him he was not serious about his statements.

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