Why Did Macbeth Kill Macduff's Family

Why does Macbeth have Macduff's family murdered?

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The witches have told Macbeth to “beware Macduff,” so he thinks Macduff poses a threat to his throne. Also, Macduff has gone to England to help Malcolm (Duncan’s son) rally an army to return to Scotland and defeat Macbeth. In an attempt to get rid of this threat, Macbeth hires murderers to kill Macduff’s family, thinking that this will cause Macduff to submit out of fear and grief.


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mperez-mugg21 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As Macbeth descends into insanity he becomes utterly obsessed with eliminating any threats to his power.  In determining which threats to heed Macbeth becomes enthralled with all of the ideas that the witches give to him, believing that all of the their prophetic warnings will come true.  It is clear that Macbeth seeks to eliminate threats to his own power due to the fact that he first murders Banquo and his children in order to ensure that Banquo's children will not pose a threat to Macbeth's rule (or that of his familial line).  Moreover, in heeding the witches prophecy (who warn him of Macduff), Macbeth is required to take action against Macduff.  When the murderers arrive to Lady Macduff's hiding place, they seek to find Macduff himself, perhaps not fully aware that he has fled, and instead find the family there.  They kill the family in part to eliminate the threat to Macbeth, but also to send the message to Macduff that they will not fear him and that they believe him to be a traitor.  Ironically, it is in this moment that Macbeth seals his own fate.  By murdering Macduff's family he ensures that Macduff will retaliate and instigate an insurgency against him, ultimately concluding in Macbeth's downfall.  This is the final act in the course of events that guarantees Macbeth's eventual death.  

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Sarah Miles eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Macbeth is sinking deeper into insanity. He is all consumed with doing whatever it takes to keep his crown. After he sees the witches again, he fears that Macduff poses the biggest threat to him. The witches warn Macbeth.

"Beware Macduff, beware the Thane of fire. The power of man, for none born of woman, shall harm Macbeth"

This frightens Macbeth so he wants to get rid of the threat. Macduff is in England helping Malcolm build an army. Malcolm is the...

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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chippybear2442 | Student
Well First of all Mabeth doesn't have Macduff killed. Macbeth orders Macduff's family killed because he discovered that Macduff has fled to Duncan's son, Malcolm in England. Macbeth is suspecious that his downfall might be coming.
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