What is Macduff's reaction to Macolm's vices?Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Scene 3 of Act IV of Macbeth, with treachery abounding in their kingdom, while Malcom and Macduff are in England, Malcolm dissembles in order to test Macduff's loyalties.  Malcolm, therefore, disparages himself, saying that he possesses many vices, and has committed many crimes.  In short, he says that is not worthy to be a king:

...I have no knowledge

Of 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,

Upon the universal peace, confound

All unity on earth. (4.3.103-112)

Having heard Malcolm's disparagement of himself, Macduff is emotionally devastated by his words, and patriotically bemoans the fate of Scotland under Macbeth.  Macduff recalls the goodness of Malcolm's parents in wonderment that Malcolm could be so corrupt:

                              ...O nation miserable

With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd

When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again,

                                                 ...Thy royal father

Was a most sainted king....

These evils thou repeat'st upon thyself

Have banish'd me from Scotland.  O my breast

Thy hope ends here! (4.3.117-128)

Finally, realizing that Macduff is sincere in his loyalty and love for his country, Malcolm reveals that he has merely been testing Macduff in order to ascertain that he is not in favor of Macbeth's rule.  Therefore, Malcolm tells Macduff,

Now, we'll [fight]together and the chance of goodness

Be like our warranted quarrel....(4.3.151-152)

Together, Malcom and Macduff vow to destroy Macbeth and restore Scotland to its people.