Is Macduff's reaction to his family's murder realistic in "Macbeth"?Do you think Macduff's reaction to his family's murder is realistic? Why or why not?

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kirstens eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare's Macduff is a very complex character.  He reacts emotionally towards Duncan's murder and Macbeth's killing of the guards, offering "wherefore did you so?" as a reaction to Macbeth's actions.  He also reacts emotionally towards news that Macbeth has killed his family.  But did he react realistically hearing that his family was murdered?  First of all, he was a military leader whose concern for Scotland came before his love of family.  Yes, he loved his family and provided for them in his absence, but failed to give his wife any warning of his leaving.  Why?  His primary obligation was to Scotland, and in this case to free Scotland of its tyrannical leader.  If he succeeded, all will be safe, including his family.  It is clear that he feels extreme sadness at the news of his family's murder; just pay attention to his commentary in the scene with Malcolm.  But the final scene of the play is obvious evidence of his turmoil.  When he cuts off the head of Macbeth and throws it to the ground, he is not only saying that Scotland is free of its tyrant, but that he, himself, has sought and gained the revenge desired.  So, was it realistic considering human behavior of today; probably not.  It wasn't emotional enough nor physically aggresive.  But for the period in which Shakespeare wrote, Macduff behaved in a controlled manner, thus ideal. 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes.  He is focused as a military man on his country and the rescue of his country from a tyrant.  He does show emotion when he repeats that his family (all my pretty chickens and their dam) are dead.  It takes Malcolm to say, "Look.  Be a man and channel your grief into this last fight.  Then you'll have time to grieve."  I'm sure that had the play continued on past Macbeth's beheading and Malcolm's "Thank you, thank you very much" speech, Macduff was in a padded room somewhere waiting on his Prozac.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think there are some unrealistic aspects of Macduff's character.  He does seem to have a fiery temper, but at the same time he is very sensitive.  He does not immediately rush to kill Macbeth.  He gathers an army first.  Yet I think he would have tried to get his family out of the kingdom so they were beyond Macbeth's reach.  If I were Macduff, that is probably what I would have done.  It would not have been nearly as dramatic though, because Macduff needs an added motive to go kill Macbeth as quickly as possible!

superstar010 | Student

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