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Macbeth
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READ STUDY GUIDE: Act IV, scenes i–iii

 
Act IV, Scene ii:
Fife. A Room in Macduff's Castle.
 
[Enter Lady Macduff, her Son, and Ross.]
LADY MACDUFF:
What had he done, to make him fly the land?
ROSS:
You must have patience, madam.
LADY MACDUFF:
He had none:
His flight was madness: when our actions do not,
Our fears do make us traitors.
ROSS:
You know not
Whether it was his wisdom or his fear.
LADY MACDUFF:
Wisdom! to leave his wife, to leave his babes,
His mansion, and his titles, in a place
From whence himself does fly? He loves us not:
He wants the natural touch; for the poor wren,
The most diminutive of birds, will fight,
Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.
All is the fear, and nothing is the love;
As little is the wisdom, where the flight
So runs against all reason.
ROSS:
My dearest coz,
I pray you, school yourself: but, for your husband,
He is noble, wise, Judicious, and best knows
The fits o' the season. I dare not speak much further:
But cruel are the times, when we are traitors,
And do not know ourselves; when we hold rumour
From what we fear, yet know not what we fear,
But float upon a wild and violent sea
Each way and move.—I take my leave of you:
Shall not be long but I'll be here again:
Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward
To what they were before.—My pretty cousin,
Blessing upon you!
LADY MACDUFF:
Father'd he is, and yet he's fatherless.
ROSS:
I am so much a fool, should I stay longer,
It would be my disgrace and your discomfort:
I take my leave at once.
[Exit.]
LADY MACDUFF:
Sirrah, your father's dead;
And what will you do now? How will you live?
SON:
As birds do, mother.
LADY MACDUFF:
What, with worms and flies?
SON:
With what I get, I mean; and so do they.
LADY MACDUFF:
Poor bird! thou'dst never fear the net nor lime,
The pit-fall nor the gin.
SON:
Why should I, mother? Poor birds they are not set for.
My father is not dead, for all your saying.
LADY MACDUFF:
Yes, he is dead: how wilt thou do for father?
SON:
Nay, how will you do for a husband?
LADY MACDUFF:
Why, I can buy me twenty at any market.
SON:
Then you'll buy 'em to sell again.
LADY MACDUFF:
Thou speak'st with all thy wit; and yet, i' faith,
With wit enough for thee.
SON:
Was my father a traitor, mother?
LADY MACDUFF:
Ay, that he was.
SON:
What is a traitor?
LADY MACDUFF:
Why, one that swears and lies.
SON:
And be all traitors that do so?
LADY MACDUFF:
Everyone that does so is a traitor, and must be hanged.
SON:
And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?
LADY MACDUFF:
Every one.
SON:
Who must hang them?
LADY MACDUFF:
Why, the honest men.
SON:
Then the liars and swearers are fools: for there are liars
and swearers enow to beat the honest men and hang up them.
LADY MACDUFF:
Now, God help thee, poor monkey! But how wilt
thou do for a father?
SON:
If he were dead, you'ld weep for him: if you would not, it
were a good sign that I should quickly have a new father.
LADY MACDUFF:
Poor prattler, how thou talk'st!
[Enter a Messenger.]
MESSENGER:
Bless you, fair dame! I am not to you known,
Though in your state of honor I am perfect.
I doubt some danger does approach you nearly:
If you will take a homely man's advice,
Be not found here; hence, with your little ones.
To fright you thus, methinks, I am too savage;
To do worse to you were fell cruelty,
Which is too nigh your person. Heaven preserve you!
I dare abide no longer.
[Exit.]
LADY MACDUFF:
Whither should I fly?
I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable; to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly: why then, alas,
Do I put up that womanly defence,
To say I have done no harm?—What are these faces?
[Enter Murderers.]
FIRST MURDERER:
Where is your husband?
LADY MACDUFF:
I hope, in no place so unsanctified
Where such as thou mayst find him.
FIRST MURDERER:
He's a traitor.
SON:
Thou liest, thou shag-haar'd villain!
FIRST MURDERER:
What, you egg!
[Stabbing him.]
Young fry of treachery!
SON:
He has kill'd me, mother:
Run away, I pray you!
[Dies. Exit Lady Macduff, crying Murder, and pursued by theMurderers.]
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