Seniors: Act 5 scenes 2-7

Today we blew through pretty much the end of the book (we left it a bit of a cliff hanger for Thursday’s class when we’ll read the last scene).

The main events today both centered around Macbeth. 1) The first part of the witches’ full destiny for him came true (Birnam Wood moved to Dunsinane) and 2) his reaction to Lady Mac’s off-stage death. It’s worth noting that two of the play’s most significant deaths – Duncan’s and Lady Mac’s – both happen off stage.

Compare Mac’s reaction to his wife’s death to Macduff’s. Here’s what Macduff had to say in IV.3:

Dispute it like a man.
I shall do so;
But I must also feel it as a man:
I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,
And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!

and later:

O, I could play the woman with mine eyes
And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,
Cut short all intermission; front to front
Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
Within my sword’s length set him; if he ‘scape,
Heaven forgive him too!

Compare that to Macbeth’s reaction to his wife’s suicide in V.5:

“She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

How are their emotional responses different? How does Macduff “take it like a man”?


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