What does Macbeth mean by "We are yet but young in deed" in act 3, scene 4?

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In Macbeth, when Macbeth says, “We are yet but young in deed,” it means he’s going to commit more murders. There is also the transition from Macbeth serving as the vassal of his wife’s wishes to one of self-agency. He is no longer the axe his wife wants to grind over the kingdom; he is now his own axe. He plans to mature from a murderer who is, as yet, “young in deed,” to an even more murderous, immoral monster.

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That Macbeth and his wife “are yet but young in deed” is but a trifle. In the lines preceding this one, it is evident Macbeth has passed the point of no return, and this time, it’s not his wife who is precipitating the action. Unlike the aftermath of Macbeth’s murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth is unable to control her husband after Banquo is slaughtered; she is forced to observe him at the dinner table while Macbeth converses with the latter’s ghost. This does not please her.

You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting
With most admired disorder.

Note the bitter tone of resignation: “With most admired disorder.” Lady Macbeth understands her husband is outside her sphere of influence and acidly expresses her opinion of this new man. She also summarizes how far her husband is falling, and she suspects he might fall yet further. When Ross questions Macbeth about “such sights” that he claims to behold, Lady Macbeth responds,

I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse;
Question enrages him. At once, good night:
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.

Again, recognizing she has lost control of her husband, that he “grows worse and worse,” Lady Macbeth orders the others away and speaks to Macbeth on his own. But it is now Macbeth who is the plotter of evil deeds.

It will have blood; they say blood will have blood.

He determines to see the witches again, and along with his comment that “blood will have blood,” he makes it clear he is far removed from the man once so terrified by the witches and their evil counsel. The circle is complete. The reluctant student of evil has become the teacher of it, and his wife has become the nervous observer, unsure of what is to come. The truth is that neither Macbeth or his wife suffer "initiate fear" (the idea they're novices), but compared to what Macbeth plans to do—murder the Macduff children—they may as well be pre-schoolers.

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This line, as well as the few that precede it, show just how comfortable Macbeth has become with committing acts of grave violence. Before the murder of Duncan, it was Lady Macbeth who seemed to proceed without conscience or guilt; she scolded Macbeth again and again, after he murdered Duncan, for being cowardly and thoughtless. Further, he had said that he'd never be able to sleep again since he murdered Duncan while the king slept. Now, however, Macbeth seems to feel relatively little after the murder of his former best friend, Banquo. He sounds quite lackadaisical when he says, "Come, we'll to sleep." He then implies that his odd behavior was only the result of his inexperience with committing acts of violence, although his final line, "We are yet but young in deed," does make it sound as though Macbeth's level of comfort with murder and bloodshed has increased significantly.

It's as though Macbeth's tolerance for violence goes up, now that he's killed Banquo. After he murdered Duncan, he couldn't sleep, but now that he's had Banquo killed, he's ready to go to bed without further ado. After killing Duncan, it seemed as though Macbeth would never want to lift a finger to hurt another person again—so distraught and regretful he seemed to be—but now he acknowledges and accepts that they will likely have to commit more and more acts of violence to hold on to the power and position they have gained.

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Part of the genius of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is the depiction of the main character’s moral descent into evil and debauchery. After his wife, Lady Macbeth, convinces him to commit the first murder (King Duncan), Macbeth begins to morph into a different person—one who is obsessed with maintaining his position and eliminating his enemies.

When the line “We are yet but young in deed” occurs, Macbeth has just concluded a very difficult night in which he repeatedly saw the ghost of Banquo (whose murder he had recently arranged) appear during a banquet that included many other Scottish noblemen. The murder of Banquo is Macbeth’s second, and it is significant because it shows that Macbeth is willing to sacrifice a former friend and “right-hand man” to safeguard his newly won position as king. When he says that “We are yet but young in deed,” he is not referring to just any “deed,” but to bloodthirsty acts of cold-blooded murder. The following lines illuminate Macbeth’s attitude toward his own recent “deeds”:

I am in blood

Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,

Returning were as tedious as go o'er.

These lines show that Macbeth is fully aware of the immorality in which he is now immersed. He holds no illusions about what he is doing, and he knows that he has gone too far down this evil path to turn back now. Since he is “young in deed” he realizes that he will have to commit more atrocities in the near future. In fact, his most atrocious act occurs in the next act when he commissions the murders of Macduff’s wife and children.

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This statement comes at the end of the scene in which Macbeth has seen the ghost of the recently-murdered Banquo. Deeply disturbed, he is reassured by his wife that the specter was only a figment of his imagination. Eventually, Macbeth agrees, and he says that because he and his wife have not much experience in murder and intrigue, it is perhaps natural to be haunted by such visions:

Come, we'll to sleep. My strange and self-abuse 
Is the initiate fear that wants hard use.
We are yet but young in deed.

By "initiate fear" he means that the two are inexperienced. Read in context, this quote could suggest that Macbeth recognizes that more murders will be necessary to maintain his position. They are "young in deed," but Macbeth doesn't seem to think they will stay that way.

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