In Macbeth, what do the old man and Ross discuss near the end of the act? What theme is revealed?

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jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This dialogue comes directly after the murder of King Duncan, at the very end of Act II. Generally, they are discussing the unnatural nature of the killing and how the weirdness of it all is reflected in the natural events surrounding it: the bizarre darkness of the day; that a large falcon was harassed and killed by a much smaller bird; that the king's horses attacked and bit each other. All of these references are meant to show how deeply the world is troubled by the awful, bloody murder that has just occurred.



Threescore and ten I can remember well:

Within the volume of which time I have seen

Hours dreadful and things strange, but this sore night

Hath trifled former knowings.



Ah, good father,

Thou seest the heavens, as troubled with man's act,

Threaten his bloody stage. By the clock ’tis day,

And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp.

Is't night's predominance, or the day's shame,

That darkness does the face of earth entomb,

When living light should kiss it?


’Tis unnatural,

Even like the deed that's done. On Tuesday last

A falcon towering in her pride of place

Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd.


And Duncan's horses—a thing most strange and


Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,

Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,

Contending ’gainst obedience, as they would make

War with mankind.


’Tis said they eat each other.