In act 4, scene 3 of Macbeth, what dramatic purpose is served by the short scene between Lady Macduff and her son? In what significant way does the murder of Macduff's family differ from Macbeth's previous crimes?
In act 4, scene 2 of Macbeth, the dramatic purpose of the short scene between Lady Macduff and her son emphasizes Macbeth's maniacal, depraved nature and establishes the rivalry between him and Macduff. The murder of Macduff's family differs from Macbeth's previous murders because it serves no specific purpose other than to satisfy his bloodlust. Macbeth seeks to gain nothing by murdering Macduff's family and does not put much thought into planning the crime.
The short exchange between Lady Macduff and her son in act 4, scene 2 humanizes these two figures, especially the intelligent young boy. He is not simply an abstraction to us. Like Duncan and Banquo, he becomes a flesh and blood character we get to know a little. Unlike Duncan and Banquo, however, he is murdered onstage. To have Macbeth's assassins stab a child in front of the audience's eyes brings home, as words cannot, the horror of what Macbeth has become. There is no reason for Macbeth to have this child killed: it will be years before he can pose any realistic threat to the throne. Having him murdered shows that Macbeth has become a despot, whose actions make him utterly unfit to rule Scotland. Macbeth's thought before he kills Duncan, that one murder will lead to another until he is drowning in blood, has come true.
Further, the boy's awareness, shown through his dialogue with his mother, that the world is a corrupt and evil place shows the ill effects of Macbeth's reign. His mother says...
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The short scene, in which Lady Macduff and her son share a tender, butintimate conversation serves several purposes.
Firstly, it gives us an insight about the kind of understanding the mother-son duo shared. They talked to each other frankly, letting the other in on their innermost feelings. Secondly, we understand Lady Macduff's feelings regarding her husband's unannounced exit. Macduff did not tell his wife everything, unlike Macbeth, whose wife was his 'partner in crime' and whose advice he took in everything. Macduff fleed giving his wife no prior explaination. This gave her full right to feel sorry for herself and her son's future. She was extremely upset and felt cheated by a husband, who at their wedding, had promised to be by her side at all time (marraige vows). This was the promise, she said he had broken while referring to her sons' 'traitor' question. What is important to note down though, is that eventhough she said thigns like he was a traitor, who had broken his promise and had lied and was not good a father or a husband, she said it out of anger. However, when the murderers sent my Macbeth arrive to kill her and her son, she immediately satdn up to the defence of her husbnad. Her son does as well. This shows the love they had for him. We also get a clear understanding of her son's wit and wisdom beyond his years.