How does Macduff serve as a foil to Macbeth?

Macduff serves as a foil to Macbeth by highlighting Macbeth's wicked, bloodthirsty actions and his disloyalty to king and country. In contrast to Macbeth, Macduff demonstrates true honor, loyalty, and honesty.

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In literature, a foil is a character with qualities that contrast with those of a main character. These contrasts typically highlight the main character's strengths or weaknesses, particularly as those traits contribute to plot development.

Macduff serves as a foil to Macbeth in several ways. First, unlike Macbeth , he...

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is a loyal and honest man, particularly when it comes to his king. It is Macduff who findsDuncan's body, and when he sees his king's bloody remains, he is so horrified that he can barely string words together:

Tongue nor heartCannot conceive nor name thee (2.3.67).

He remarks that the act of murdering a king is sacrilegious, since kings are ordained by God. Macduff's loyal reaction to Duncan's death thus serves to further emphasize the wickedness of Macbeth's murderous acts, demonstrating that Macbeth has not only acted selfishly—he has acted against God.

Act 4, scene 3, highlights Macduff's integrity. Macduff seeks out Duncan's son Malcolm, whom he believes to be the rightful ruler, to overthrow the tyrannical Macbeth. Malcolm, however, is unsure of Macduff's allegiances, and so he "tests" him, claiming that while Macbeth is bad ruler, he might prove even worse. As Malcolm details his various (pretend) vices, Macduff grows disgusted, and exclaims that Malcolm's wicked nature makes him unfit to rule:

Fit to govern?
No, not to live.—O nation miserable,
With an untitled tyrant bloody-sceptered,
When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again,
Since that the truest issue of thy throne
By his own interdiction stands accursed,
And does blaspheme his breed?

Macduff's horrified reaction proves that his intentions are honorable, prompting Malcolm to reveal his deception and agree to work with Macduff. Notably, while Macbeth is perfectly willing to commit treacherous acts to maintain power and satisfy his ambition, Macduff refuses to compromise his honor by swearing loyalty to an unworthy ruler. In refusing to support Malcolm—even though he is the rightful heir to the throne— Macduff displays a strength of character that is noticeably absent in Macbeth.

Ultimately, then, in showing how an honorable nobleman ought to act, Macduff makes Macbeth look even more selfish and weak in comparison. When news reaches Macduff that Macbeth has murdered his family, their role as foils and rivals is cemented, and a final battle between the two of them becomes inevitable.

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Why is Macduff an effective foil for Macbeth in Macbeth?

Macduff and Macbeth serve as powerful contrasts with one another, not only in terms of personality but also in terms of their role within the play. From this perspective, they certainly emerge as foils.

For one thing, consider how both these characters exist as agents of prophecy, with the their fates ultimately intertwined with one another. We see this in act 4, scene 1, when Macbeth receives a second series of prophecies relating to his eventual downfall (prophecies he misinterprets to relate to his own invincibility). One of those prophecies states: "none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth." As we learn at the end of the play, this particular prophecy relates to Macbeth's eventual defeat at the hands of Macduff, who was born by cesarean section. Just like Macbeth, Macduff's life is dictated by destiny. He appears fated to defeat Macbeth and to help restore law and order to Scotland.

However, this is not the only way these two characters are thematically linked (and contrasted) with one another. For example, consider that they both have similar roles for their respective lieges (Duncan for Macbeth and Malcolm for Macduff), but Macduff proves to be loyal to his monarch where Macbeth is treacherous, murdering his rightful king to usurp the throne for himself. In defeating Macbeth, Malcolm and Macduff bring an end to this tyrannical usurpation and restore legitimate monarchy to Scotland.

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Why is Macduff an effective foil for Macbeth in Macbeth?

A foil is a character that exhibits contrasting qualities with another character in order to emphasize the other character's traits. Macduff is an effective foil to Macbeth because he exhibits opposite character traits, which contrast greatly with Macbeth's personality and actions throughout the play. Macbeth is portrayed as a treacherous, ambitious individual with no loyalty and an authoritative disposition. He is also depicted as a bloodthirsty tyrant, who is callous in nature and overconfident that he will defeat his enemies. In contrast, Macduff is depicted as a loyal, honest person, who fits the archetype of an avenging hero throughout the play.

In act 4, scene 3, Macduff begs Malcolm to return to Scotland and vows to support him in his fight against Macbeth. However, Malcolm lies to Macduff by telling him that he is an utterly despicable human being, who is not fit to be king. Macduff is deeply saddened by Malcolm's news and cries for his country. This scene depicts Macduff as a compassionate, genuine person, who is more concerned about the well-being of his country than he is about his own life. Macduff then risks his life for his country by leading the troops against Macbeth and defeating the tyrant in battle.

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Why is Macduff an effective foil for Macbeth in Macbeth?

A foil is a character who exists to provide contrast.  Macbeth and Macduff are opposites.  Although both are brave soldiers and noblemen when the story starts, Macbeth becomes a murderer and a tyrant and Macduff vows to stop him.

Macbeth is the Thane of Glamis and Macduff is the Thane of Fife.  Both are important nobles to the kingdom, and both are apparently loyal to Duncan.

Macduff is everything Macbeth is not.  He is sensitive and emotional.  When King Duncan is murdered, he is horrified while Macbeth—Duncan’s murderer—only pretends to be.

O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart

Cannot conceive nor name thee. (Act 3, Scene 3, p. 34)

He also asks people to look after Lady Macbeth when she seems to faint.  He is concerned with her health and safety even as the king is dead.  This is completely contrary to Macbeth, who thinks only of himself.

Macduff seems aware that Macbeth is up to something. He becomes suspicious.  Banquo says he suspects something.

Against the undivulged pretence I fight

Of treasonous malice (Act 2, Scene 4, p. 37)

Macduff replies: “And so do I.”  

Clearly, he suspects foul play.  It is not much of a step from there to suspecting Macbeth, in whose castle Duncan was killed.

From there, tragedy strikes. When Macbeth reaches out and has Macduff’s wife, son, and entire household killed, the two are fated to struggle to the death.  Macduff cannot let such an insult stand.

Malcolm, who has been feeling Macduff out to see if he really is loyal, tells Macduff to “dispute it like a man” and he says he will, but he still feels it.

But I must also feel it as a man.

I cannot but remember such things were,

That were most precious to me. (Act 3, Scene 3, p. 74)

Of course, Macduff is not the treacherous one.  He is determined to kill Macbeth in order to return justice and peace to the land.  He cares as much about his country as getting his revenge.

In the end, one foil often ends up killing the other.  Macduff kills Macbeth, the violent version of himself, because he has gone to the dark side.  He has turned evil.  Macduff feels responsible for taking him out.

Behold where stands

The usurper's cursed head. The time is free.

I see thee compass'd with thy kingdom's pearl  (Act 5, Scene 8, p. 90)

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In Shakespeare's Macbeth, why is Macduff's plan effective?

I assume you are referring to Macduff's plan to leave Scotland at his earliest convenience and seek assistance for Macbeth's overthrow.

The plan is effective in the sense that firstly, Macduff, in leaving in such a hurry, denies Macbeth the opportunity to assassinate him as he had done with Banquo. Macbeth has been aware of Macduff's sentiments and knows where his loyalties lie and wants him dead. In fact, the murderers who kill Macduff's entire family come looking for him for, on their arrival, the first murderer asks Lady Macduff, "Where is your husband?"

The murder of Macduff's entire family and his servants indicates how ruthless and bloodthirsty the tyrant has become. With his rushed escape Macduff had, essentially, abandoned his family and left them vulnerable and open to Macbeth's malice. In this regard, the plan was not entirely effective. In his defense, though, one can argue that he had no choice but to leave. If he had tarried, he would have been killed as well. His escape ensured that he would be able to acquire support for what has become a desperate cause—the survival of his beloved Scotland.

Macduff meets up with Malcolm in England, where he is informed that Edward, the English king, has promised support for their cause in the form of "goodly thousands"—experienced and battle-hardened soldiers. Macduff also later learns that Siward, "with ten thousand warlike men, / Already at a point, was setting forth."

He and Malcolm eventually meet up with the troops as they approach Macbeth's castle from Birnam wood. They later overrun his castle, and Macduff is brought face to face with the evil tyrant. He kills him in a sword fight and decapitates him. The bloody tyrant has come to an ignominious end, and Macduff has had his revenge.

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