Siward, English general

[This is an annotated list of all appearances and all mentions of Siward.]



William Abney as Siward.

Source: BBC Shakespeare Macbeth


When Macduff appeals to Malcolm to join battle against Macbeth, Malcolm tests Macduff's intentions, but then reassures him that preparations are already under way. He tells Macduff that the English will support his cause, and that even before Macduff arrived in England, "Old Siward, with ten thousand warlike men, / Already at a point, was setting forth" (4.3.134-135). A little later in the scene, speaking to Macduff and Ross, Malcolm praises Siward: "An older and a better soldier none / That Christendom gives out" (4.3.191-192). [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). [Scene Summary]




Siward first appears with the combined Scots and English forces in Birnam wood, before Macbeth's castle. Siward comments, "We learn no other but the confident tyrant / Keeps still in Dunsinane, and will endure / Our setting down before 't" (5.4.8-10). Siward is expressing surprise that Macbeth is so overconfident as to allow his enemies to approach the castle and begin a siege. Later in the scene he agrees with Macduff that the only way to test Macbeth's strength is to fight the battle. [Scene Summary]




When Malcolm gives the order for the charge against Dunsinane, Siward responds, "Fare you well. / Do we but find the tyrant's power to-night, / Let us be beaten, if we cannot fight" (5.6.7-8). He means that if they can only find Macbeth's pitiful army, they will deserve to lose if they can't fight well enough to win a quick victory. [Scene Summary]




During the final battle, Malcolm and Siward enter, knowing that they have already won. Siward comments that "the castle's gently render'd: / The tyrant's people on both sides do fight" (5.7.24-25). He means that the castle was surrendered without any real resistance, because Macbeth's soldiers fought only until they saw a chance to switch sides. [Scene Summary]




In the last scene of the play, after Macbeth has been killed, Malcolm and his supporters appear. Malcolm knows his side has won, but he worries about those missing in action. Siward, taking a soldier's realistic view of death, comments, "Some must go off: and yet, by these I see, / So great a day as this is cheaply bought" (5.8.36-37). Ironically, one that went off (died) was Siward's son. Siward takes the news like a soldier, glad that his son died bravely and in a good cause. [Scene Summary]