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Malcolm, son of Duncan, King of Scotland


"This is the sergeant / Who like a good and hardy soldier fought / 'Gainst my captivity. Hail, brave friend!" (1.2.3-5). Thus Malcolm introduces the sergeant who will tell about Macbeth's heroic victory over the Scottish traitors and the King of Norway. Malcolm's words indicate that he has fought in the battle, too. Malcolm is apparently named after his great-grandfather, King Malcolm. [Scene Summary]


Malcolm says of the rebel Thane of Cawdor, "Nothing in his life / Became him like the leaving it" (1.4.7-8). Malcolm's father, King Duncan, has just asked if Cawdor has been executed yet. From this speech, it would seem that Malcolm is a man who's able to give praise where praise is due. Later in the scene the King announces that Malcolm is heir to the throne, and therefore has the title of Prince of Cumberland. Upon hearing this, Macbeth immediately thinks about killing Malcolm. [Scene Summary]


"Hoboys and torches. Enter King Duncan, Malcolm, Donalbain, Banquo, Lennox, Macduff, Ross, Angus, and Attendants " (1.6.1, s.d. ). Malcolm is in King Duncan's entourage when the King arrives at Macbeth's castle and is greeted by Lady Macbeth. [Scene Summary]


After discovering King Duncan's body, Macduff cries out, "Ring the alarum-bell. Murder and treason! / Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! awake!" (2.3.75). Malcolm and Donalbain appear, and find that their father has been murdered, and that Macbeth has killed the grooms that supposedly did the murder. Then they see Lady Macbeth faint with apparent grief, and decide that something is fishy. Afraid that they'll be murdered next, they go right to their horses and slip away. [Scene Summary]


Just before Macbeth is crowned King of Scotland, Macduff and Ross are discussing the question of who is guilty of King Duncan's murder. Macduff repeats the official version: King Duncan was murdered by his grooms. To Ross that doesn't make sense, because the grooms had nothing to gain by the murder. Macduff then gives the rest of the official story, which is that the grooms were bribed by Malcolm and Donalbain: "They were suborn'd: / Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's two sons, / Are stol'n away and fled; which puts upon them / Suspicion of the deed" (2.4.24-27). The way the two men discuss this subject makes it appear that both men doubt the official story, although they aren't willing to come right out and say so at the moment. [Scene Summary]


In a seemingly casual way, Macbeth says to Banquo, We hear, our bloody cousins are bestow'd / In England and in Ireland, not confessing / Their cruel parricide, filling their hearers / With strange invention" (3.1.29-32). The "bloody cousins" are Malcolm and Donalbain. "Invention" is something invented or made up, so Macbeth is accusing Malcolm and Donalbain of telling unbelievable lies, probably to the effect that Macbeth killed their father. Moments later, Macbeth arranges for the murder of Banquo. [Scene Summary]


After coming to understand that Macbeth is a murderous tyrant, Lennox sarcastically comments, "Who cannot want the thought how monstrous / It was for Malcolm and for Donalbain / To kill their gracious father? damned fact!" (3.6.8-10). He is mocking Macbeth's story that Malcolm and Donalbain must be responsible for their father's death.

In the same scene Lennox learns that Malcolm has been respectfully received in the English court, and that Macduff is going there to ask the English King to send an army to Scotland to help Malcolm take the throne from Macbeth. [Scene Summary]


"Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there / Weep our sad bosoms empty" (4.3.1-2), says Malcolm to Macduff, when Macduff tells him of the terrible situation in Scotland. Macduff wants Malcolm's support for a war against Macbeth, but Malcolm is extremely cautious. He doesn't commit to anything until he has thoroughly tested Macduff's honor and intentions. Malcolm does this by pretending that he would be a king even more evil than Macbeth. [Scene Summary]


As the Scottish forces are on the march to join the English army, Menteith says, "The English power is near, led on by Malcolm, / His uncle Siward and the good Macduff" (5.2.1-2). At the end of the same scene Lennox says that the blood of the Scottish forces will "dew the sovereign flower and drown the weeds" (5.2.30). In this context, "dew" means to refresh and make grow. "The sovereign flower" is generally taken to refer to Malcolm, and the weeds are Macbeth and his supporters. [Scene Summary]


As he awaits the struggle with the forces arrayed against him, Macbeth is full of bravado, and asks contemptuously, "What's the boy Malcolm? / Was he not born of woman?" (5.3.3-4). [Scene Summary]


When the Scottish forces have joined the English army at Birnam wood, Malcolm says, "Cousins, I hope the days are near at hand / That chambers will be safe," and Menteith replies, "We doubt it nothing" (5.4.1-2). Malcolm is referring to the murder of King Duncan in his bedchamber, and they are both expressing confidence that their side will win. After this, Malcolm gives the order for the soldiers to camouflage themselves with branches of trees. The soldiers obey, so it appears that Malcolm is the commander of both the Scots and the English. [Scene Summary]


When the forces arrayed against Macbeth are near enough to Dunsinane that further concealment is not necessary, Malcolm gives the order: "Now near enough: your leafy screens throw down. / And show like those you are" (5.6.1-2). He then directs the company led by Siward and his son to begin the attack, and says that a second company, led by Macduff and himself, will do the mopping-up operations. [Scene Summary]


During the final battle, Malcolm and Siward enter, knowing that they have already won. Malcolm comments on the easy victory, saying "We have met with foes / That strike beside us" (5.7.28-29). "Strike beside us" means either that Macbeth's soldiers deliberately missed when they swung their swords, or that they came over to Malcolm's side. In any case, the royal castle of Dunsinane now belongs to the next king, Malcolm. [Scene Summary]


In the last scene of the play, as Macduff is dragging out Macbeth's body, we hear trumpets sounding a retreat, indicating that the battle is over, and then a flourish, announcing the arrival of the victors, led by Malcolm. Malcolm, like a good prince, thinks first of his brothers in arms, and says, "I would the friends we miss were safe arrived" (5.8.35). The "friends we miss" are all those missing in action, and among them are Macduff and Young Siward. Ross then tells of the death of Young Siward, and Malcolm expresses his sorrow for the boy's death. Then Macduff enters with Macbeth's head on a pole and hails Malcolm as King of Scotland. Malcolm thanks his thanes, promises to reward them and punish Macbeth's supporters, then invites all to see him crowned. [Scene Summary]

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