Macduff, a Scottish nobleman

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

Terence Bayler as Macduff


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

"Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed, / that you do lie so late?" (2.3.23). Thus Macduff chides the Porter at the gate of Macbeth's castle. It is before dawn, and Macduff has an early appointment with the King. In the previous scene, we heard Macduff's knock as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth went to wash King Duncan's blood off their hands. In this scene, Macduff discovers King Duncan's body and awakens everyone else to the horror.      [Detailed Scene Summary]

The morning after the night that King Duncan is murdered, Ross and Macduff discuss the question of who did the murder. Their guarded words suggests that they have serious doubts about the idea that the grooms killed King Duncan and were bribed to do so by Malcolm and Donalbain. Also, Macduff, unlike Ross, is not going to go to see Macbeth crowned, and his farewell to Ross suggests that Duncan was a better king than Macbeth will be: "Well, may you see things well done there: adieu! / Lest our old robes sit easier than our new!" (2.4.37-38).      [Detailed Scene Summary]

After the Ghost of Banquo ruins Macbeth's party, Macbeth remembers that Macduff didn't come to the banquet, and he asks his wife, "How say'st thou, that Macduff denies his person / At our great bidding?" (3.4.128). It's clear that he is suspicious of Macduff, and it's also clear that Macduff is in danger, because Macbeth has decided that he has waded so far into a river of blood that he might as well go over to the other side.      [Detailed Scene Summary]

Lennox comes to understand that Macbeth is a murderous tyrant, and he worries about what might happen to Macduff, because "from broad words and 'cause he fail'd / His presence at the tyrant's feast, I hear / Macduff lives in disgrace" (3.6.21-23). The Scottish Lord with whom Lennox is speaking agrees, and adds that Macduff is on his way to the court of the English King in order to get assistance in overthrowing Macbeth and putting Malcolm, Duncan's son, on the throne. At the end of the scene Lennox wishes that Macduff may have success, so "that a swift blessing / May soon return to this our suffering country" (3.6.47-48).      [Detailed Scene Summary]

When Macbeth goes to the witches to learn his fate, they call up apparitions, the first of which says, Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff; / Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough" (4.1.72). Later in the scene, Macbeth, after learning that Macduff has fled to England, announces that he will put Macduff's wife and children to the edge of the sword.      [Detailed Scene Summary]

"What had he done, to make him fly the land?" (4.2.1), exclaims Lady Macduff about her husband. Ross has just informed her that Macduff has fled Scotland. After this, she says that it must have been fear that made him flee, leaving his family unprotected. Despite this, the scene shows her as a strong woman who misses her husband, and when Macbeth's hired assassins ask where he is, she replies, "I hope, in no place so unsanctified / Where such as thou mayst find him" (4.2.81-82).      [Detailed Scene Summary]

When Macduff tells Malcolm of the terrible things that are happening in Scotland under the tyrant Macbeth, Malcolm suggests that they should weep for the fate of their country. Macduff replies, Let us rather / Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men / Bestride our down-fall'n birthdom" (4.3.2-4). Macduff wants Malcolm to join the fight against Macbeth, but Malcolm is very cautious and tests Macduff's honor and intentions. In particular, Malcolm claims that he would be a worse king than Macbeth. When Macduff gets disgusted, Malcolm reveals that he really is a good man and is ready to fight Macbeth. Near the end of the scene, Ross delivers the news of the slaughter of Macduff's wife and children. Macduff's passionate grief is expressed in memorable words: "All my pretty ones? / Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? / What, all my pretty chickens and their dam / At one fell swoop?" (4.3.220).      [Detailed Scene Summary]

Among the things that Lady Macbeth says as she is sleepwalking is "The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?" (5.1.43). The thane of Fife is Macduff. As far as we know, Macbeth did not tell his wife about the murder of Macduff's wife and children, but apparently she has heard the story and knows who is responsible.      [Detailed 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). He then comments that "Revenges burn in them" (5.2.3).      [Detailed Scene Summary]

In Birnam wood, Malcolm and some others discuss Macbeth's desperate situation and express confidence that they will win, but Macduff says, "Let our just censures / Attend the true event, and put we on / Industrious soldiership" (5.4.14-16). A "censure" is a judgment or opinion; "attend" means "wait for"; and "event" means "outcome." Macduff is making the point that that they will know how strong Macbeth is after they have fought the battle; until that time, all they have to do is be good soldiers. Siward agrees, and thus the scene ends with a contrast between Macbeth's desperate overconfidence and his enemies' calm determination.      [Detailed Scene Summary]

At the walls of Dunsinane, after the soldiers throw down their concealing boughs, it is Macduff who calls out the battle-charge: "Make all our trumpets speak; give them all breath, / Those clamorous harbingers of blood and death" (5.6.9-10).      [Detailed Scene Summary]

During the final battle, just after Macbeth has killed young Siward, Macduff rushes in, looking for Macbeth. Apparently Macduff realizes that he has just missed Macbeth, and he shouts out a challenge to his unseen enemy: "Tyrant, show thy face! / If thou be'st slain and with no stroke of mine, / My wife and children's ghosts will haunt me still" (5.7.14-16). Macduff goes on to say that he has no wish to fight Macbeth's unwilling soldiers, then hears a noise which he thinks will lead him to Macbeth, and he rushes out again.      [Detailed Scene Summary]

In the last scene of the play, Macduff catches up with Macbeth and shouts, "Turn, hell-hound, turn!" (5.8.3). Macbeth turns and fights, then says that he can't be harmed by one "of woman born." Macduff replies, "Despair thy charm / And let the angel whom thou still hast served / Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb / Untimely ripp'd" (5.8.16-19). They fight again, until Macduff kills Macbeth and drags off his body. Moments later, Macduff returns with Macbeth's head on a pole, and leads the rest of the thanes in hailing Malcolm as King of Scotland.      [Detailed Scene Summary]