Plot Summary / The Story-line
In Act II Scene IV of “Macbeth”, outside Macbeth’s castle Ross (a Scottish noble) and an old man discuss the recent events in Scotland, including the strange occurrences that have taken place since the death of King Duncan. They talk about the unnatural storms, the disappearance of horses, and the owl that killed a falcon. The old man also mentions that Duncan’s horses behaved strangely and became wild after their master’s death.
Macduff enters the scene and reports that it has been accepted that the two guards murdered Duncan on the orders of Malcolm and Donalbain (Duncan’s sons) who have now run away. He also informs that Macbeth has been named the new king and that he has left for Scone to be formally crowned. Macduff expresses doubt about Macbeth’s ability to rule. While he returns to his home at Fife, Ross goes to Scone to see Macbeth’s coronation.
Commentary on Act II, Scene iv
Act II Scene IV of “Macbeth” is a brief yet powerful scene that serves to heighten the atmosphere of foreboding and unrest that surrounds the play. This scene is notable for its focus on the natural world and how it reflects the political turmoil of the country. The strange occurrences magnify the crime committed by Macbeth.
This scene is also useful in revealing Macduff’s doubts and fears about Macbeth’s ability to rule. It suggests that he may not remain loyal to Macbeth for long and may prove to be a challenge for Macbeth to hold his position in future.
However, this scene also brings a sense that Macbeth has successfully carried out his plans, at least for now, by labelling the King’s guards guilty of the murder, directing the suspicion to the King’s sons and by ascending to the throne. This is how Act II of “Macbeth” comes to end, keeping the audience in suspense for the events that will follow.