Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Macbeth, why does Macduff refuse to attend Macbeth's coronation?  

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Phoebe Eason eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Although it is certainly true that Macduff is suspicious of Macbeth, there is also another reason that Macduff is so resistant to Macbeth's kingship throughout the play: his strong belief in the divine right of kings, which was a prevalent belief during Shakespeare's time. Essentially, the divine right of kings was a premise that God established the line of kings. Therefore, any interruption in that line would bring chaos and disfavor. Since Macbeth did disrupt the natural line, Macduff, even with no knowledge of his more nefarious part in Duncan's end, views him negatively.

The reader can begin to see chaos happen the very night that Duncan is murdered. The old man in act 2, scene 4 claims,

'Tis unnatural
Even like the deed that’s done. On Tuesday last,
A falcon, tow'ring in her pride of place,
Was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed. (11–14)

The old man's description links the death of the God-appointed king with immediate disruptions in nature. Macbeth's kingship continues to create disorder in the natural world, further asserting the idea that he is not the king whom God desires to rule over Scotland. Macduff mentions this when he speaks with Malcolm, the rightful heir, in act 4, scene 3. Macduff claims that each day in Scotland under Macbeth's rule

New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows
Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds
As if it felt with Scotland and yelled out
Like syllable of dolor. (5–8)

Macduff follows this sad description up with his claim to Malcolm, in response to Malcolm's list of his own faults, that

Boundless intemperance
In nature is a tyranny. It hath been
The untimely emptying of the happy throne And fall of many kings. But fear not yet
To take upon you what is yours. (67–71)

Macduff truly believes that it doesn't matter what Malcolm's weaknesses are; because Malcolm possesses the divine right of kings, he has the responsibility to take up what is his.

Therefore, it wouldn't have mattered on some level who became king after Duncan if it wasn't Malcolm. Macduff represents a large groups of the citizenry who would have seen Macbeth's ascension to the throne as a usurpation and an act of defiance against God's order that is restored, not only with Macbeth's death, but with Malcolm's rightful ascension.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Macduff decides not to attend Macbeth's coronation for two reasons. Like Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's sons and direct heirs, he realizes it is not safe to be in the Scottish court. If someone would be so audacious as to murder a king, a great sin, he would not hesitate to murder a lesser person. Macduff retreats to his own lands in Fife for safety's sake.

However, he also is suspicious that Macbeth is the murderer and for that reason too, would prefer not to attend his coronation. He openly questions why Macbeth killed the guards, who were the only witnesses to the murder. He can clearly see, too, as can Malcolm and Donalbain, that Macbeth had the most to gain from Duncan's death, as he becomes the king. It doesn't take him long to put two and two together and decide to stay out of the way.

Donalbain's thoughts, expressed to Malcolm, seem to sum up Macduff's sentiments. Donalbain says that nobody is to be trusted. Somebody who acted as Duncan's friend stabbed him to death. Those once closest to Duncan are in the most danger:

Where we are,
There’s daggers in men’s smiles.
Malcolm and Donalbain's flight work to Macbeth's advantage in making it seem as if they are the guilty party. Macduff's absence is also, at first, welcome, as it rids Macbeth of a suspicious presence.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In act 2, scene 3, Macduff and the other Scottish nobles are horrified to discover that King Duncan has been assassinated. Macbeth and his wife act like they are also astonished, and Macbeth comments that he regrets killing Duncan's chamberlains out of anger. Macduff responds by questioning Macbeth's actions, which implies that he views him with suspicion and thinks that he may have played a role in the king's death. In the next scene, Macduff tells Ross that he will not attend Macbeth's coronation at Scone and will instead return to Fife. Macduff's refusal to attend Macbeth's coronation at Scone is significant and reveals that he does support Macbeth's new title as King of Scotland. Macduff's actions also indicate that he is suspicious of Macbeth, which is later confirmed when he visits England and vows to support Malcolm. Macbeth takes note of Macduff's absence and acknowledges that he has become an enemy. In response to Macduff's absence, Macbeth has Macduff's entire family slaughtered while he is visiting Malcolm in England.

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Macduff refuses to go to Macbeth's coronation, because Macduff is suspicious of Macbeth.  Macduff is the only person to question why Macbeth killed the two guards.  They are witnesses to the crime, and information could have been gotten from them.  Macduff shows his suspicion by questioning Macbeth.  Macduff knows something isn't right.  Because Macduff is suspicious of how Macbeth attained the throne, he doesn't want to honor Macbeth at the coronation.  

I also think that Macduff went back to his home in order to reduce his own danger from Macbeth.  If Macbeth was willing to kill a king, then for sure he would be willing to kill Macduff just to keep him quiet.  Macduff can't spread his suspicion around, if he is dead.  Macduff knows that he is a potential target, so he leaves. 

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kristenfusaro eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Macduff first becomes weary of Macbeth in Act II, scene iii, when Macbeth announces he has killed the guards.  Earlier in the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth smear blood and leave bloody daggers by King Duncan's guards to frame the guards for King Duncan's murder. Macbeth says: "O, yet I do repent me of my fury, / That I did kill them," and Macduff's response is: "Wherefore did you so?" Macduff's response implies that he is initially suspicious -- why would Macbeth murder the only two witnesses available to explain what happened to the King? From this quote, the audience can derive that Macduff sees through Macbeth's lies.  Macduff then decides he will "to Fife" (Fife is where Macduff is Thane) instead of Macbeth's coronation. He refuses to see Macbeth crowned as King of Scotland when Macduff believes Macbeth has been false.

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Macduff's refusing to go to Macbeth's coronation is the first sign in the play that suggests that he is suspicious of Macbeth's actions.  Somehow, Macduff is aware that Macbeth has not gotten his new titles through honest deeds, so Macduff decides to not go to the coronation--why should he honor a man who is likely false?  Instead, Macduff says that he will return to his home in Fife, and shortly after that, he makes plans to go see Malcolm in England.  So, with Macduff's refusal to attend the coronation, he shows disrespect to Macbeth as the new king, and an element of foreshadowing is put into place--Macduff eventually overtakes Macbeth and the crown is given to the rightful heir, Malcolm.

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