The Power of Macduff

The Power of Macduff

-Analysis of Macduff in the play Macbeth

Related image        A number of dramatic events take place in the play, Macbeth. The King of Scotland is murdered by his own trusted Thane, some noblemen flee to plot a rebellion, and Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan even more treacherous acts to eliminate the ones in their way. The destruction of the Great Chain of Being creates chaos where the evil happenings take place like a speeding typhoon. In all this turmoil, there is a rather calm and humane nobleman who carefully takes action as these events happen: Macduff. Unlike many other characters in the play, Macduff stands his ground no matter what and remains loyal to his country.


  Macduff is a figure who expresses his emotions honestly, having firm trust in the people around him. When he finds King Duncan murdered in the bedroom, he frantically comes back to his fellow noblemen and alarms them with an astonished and shocked voice, saying “Oh, horror, horror, horror! / Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee!” (2. 3. 38) Macduff could have been a little hesitant when telling the others about the king’s death since no one else had witnessed the scene yet and he could have been suspected as the murderer. However, his honest and straightforward reaction to King Duncan’s death shows that the horror he felt was a genuine feeling that came from deep inside his heart. Macduff's personality contrasts well with Lady Macbeth, who pretends to be completely innocent when she hears the news of Duncan’s death. When Lady Macbeth asks Macduff what had happened, he thoughtfully says, “O gentle lady, / ‘Tis not for you to hear what I can speak: / The repetition, in a woman’s ear, / Would murder as it fell.” (2. 3. 59-61) Although Lady Macbeth might have scoffed at his words at that moment, Macduff had rightful trust in his hostess and had shown her his sincerity. Macduff’s open attitude about his feelings is also significant later on in the play when he receives the agonizing news of his wife and children’s death. When Malcolm advises him to go over it like a man, Macduff says that he must also feel it like a man. In his words there is a note of admiration for human emotions – he is a person who values what he feels and does not hesitate to openly express them.

  Macduff is not only a humane character but a person who genuinely loves and cares for his country and its people. Hearing from England that the people of Scotland are living in pain under Macbeth’s tyranny, he becomes furious, urging Malcolm not to “Weep our sad bosoms empty” but to bravely “Bestride our downfall’n birthdom.” (4. 3. 2-4) Macduff feels that he needs to take action to save his country from being viciously trampled by Macbeth. However, when he tries to persuade Malcolm to go back to Scotland and overthrow the tyrant, Malcolm refuses, saying that he would be an even worse ruler who would put the country in a disastrous state. Macduff insists on helping him become king until Malcolm admits that he has none of the ‘king-becoming graces’ such as justice, patience, courage, and devotion. At this, Macduff angrily cries, “Fit to govern? / No, not to live.” (4. 3. 104-105) An ambitious nobleman would have never said that to a future king. Macduff offered to help Malcolm overthrow the tyranny, but it was not that he wanted to grasp power by doing so; his intention was solely to revive Scotland. His heart was full of sorrow not because he had to flee from his homeland, but because his country was suffering terribly. That was why when Malcolm admitted his disqualifications as a good ruler, Macduff shouted at him with great disappointment and despair. By doing so, Macduff clearly qualifies himself as a decent helper who can take action to save his country. He is the ultimate opposite of Macbeth, who merely cares about how powerful he is and concentrates in satisfying his own greed.

  At first, it might seem as if Macduff is not a very significant character since he does not speak up as frequently as the other characters in the play. When everyone compliments Macbeth on his castle in Act 1, Macduff keeps on being silent. When he is in Birnam Wood with the other noblemen and the army, he again does not say much but calmly reminds the others not to make hasty judgments until they get their goal achieved. Macduff’s considerate attitude is actually a hidden force that contributes significantly to the end of Macbeth While the others panicked over King Duncan’s death, Macduff was the first one to be suspicious of Macbeth’s killing of the guards, saying “Wherefore did you so?” (2. 3. 86) His usual wordlessness made him inspect situations more thoroughly and later helped him make just decisions such as standing with Malcolm to bring Scotland back in peace. Macduff is a careful watcher who goes through a lot of dramatic events but does not lose his values and own thoughts. At the end of Macbeth Macduff says something that expresses his personality in just a few words: “I have no words. / My voice is in my sword. Thou bloodier villain / Than terms can give thee out!” He then slays Macbeth, showing the world the power of his quiet charisma.

  Macduff cannot be only seen as one of the many noblemen. His honest expressions, love for Scotland, and prudent nature build up altogether to shape him into an ideal figure who people can firmly trust. At the very end, Macduff calls, “Hail, King of Scotland!” (5. 7. 59) However, it does not mean that he would be forever loyal to Malcolm just because he is the king – Macduff would remain loyal to his country and its people, guarding them against whatever danger that comes forth.