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Thread: Macbeth debate

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    Exclamation Macbeth debate

    What points could you make in the defence that Macduff is NOT to blame for the death of his family?
    Thank you!

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Unsolicited advice: If you go into a debate armed only with whatever talking points you could get secondhand from forums, while your opponent(s) have actually read and/or watched the play, you're going to be destroyed in front of everyone. I strongly suggest getting the text of the play (ideally a good annotated text from the library, but you can also get it from this site or Gutenberg.

    For watching, you can't go wrong with Ian McKellan and Judi Dench: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YpKWWK0Pj34
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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    FYI I've read the play, just can't come up with any arguments

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    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by disiscanada View Post
    FYI I've read the play, just can't come up with any arguments
    If so, what do you make of the robust arguments voiced by Lady Macduff in, perhaps, the finest scene of the play?
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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    When you say the finest scene in the play and reference Lady MacDuff, are you referring to her only scene in the play ACT IV scene ii where she is informed of MacDuff's flight while washing her son, and then she and the son are murdered by MacBeth's two murderers? Her arguments speak for themselves and she has the moral imperative to boot. Her husband is next on MacBeth's hit list and as such has been proclaimed a traitor throughout the land with the hope of hastening MacDuff's capture and death. MacDuff does indeed panic and we can assume that by running he is hoping to get to Malcolm, raise an army and defeat MacBeth. It simply does not occur to him that MacBeth is such a savage as to murder his wife, children, servants, livestock and torch his castle in the bargain. MacDuff's reaction in Act IV scene iii when Ross gives him the news of the slaughter bears witness to the depth of love for his wife and child. Indeed, some of the most moving imagery and dialogue is in those moments following the news. I would also highly recommend Roman Polansky's (and I don't like the man anymore than you do) version of MacBeth from 1971. Little known detail of that film: It was made just after the death of Sharon Tate at the hands of Charles Manson's tribe. She was pregnant at the time with Polansky's child. He was told over the phone that she had been murdered. When you watch his rendition of the film, pay attention to the sequence where Banquo and Fleance are out hunting and are overtaken by MacBeth's murderers (Act III scene iii). He makes the bold choice of having Banquo and Fleance separated, unhorsed and Banquo has his arrow pulled and drawn in the bow, aimed at the first murderer coming towards him with an axe, when he sees the second armed murderer running toward his unarmed son Fleance who's trying to remount his horse. He has one shot. He turns and gives his back to the first murderer's axe so he can fire off the arrow to kill the second murderer thereby allowing his son to flee and live another day. (..."Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!) And to eventually be King if we are to believe the witch's prophecies that MacBeth will reign as king but have no children, while Banquo will never be king but his sons will be. Much speculation rests in the argument that Shakespeare wrote the play for the newly crowned King James II of England so he could demonstrate James II's long line of royalty stretching back in time several generations. It's important to track the witches vis. a vis. the events as they unravel. The witches proclaim FIRST what will happen, and indeed are never wrong. Just a couple of surprise caveats for MacBeth toward the end. Forgive my tangeants. I've done (directed and acted) the play six times and it's a pet of mine. Happy to toss out any other fodder you may like. As for your original question, Yes, Lady MacDuff has very sound reasons and again the complete moral imperative in the situation. Another interesting tidbit. You'll notice that In Act IV scene ii it is ROSS who gives Lady MacDuff the news of MacDuff's flight. It is also ROSS who in the following scene Act IV scene iii gives MacDuff the news of the horror. However, ROSS has theoretically LEFT Lady MacDUff alive and gone straight to follow MacDuff, yet he seems to have all the grim details of the pillage. In the Polansky version, he has ROSS give the news, then shows ROSS leaving the MacDuff castle proper AND DELIBERATELY leaving the castle outdoors OPEN and UNLOCKED for entrance...spooky! Another fun thing to track. When Banquo says to FLeance "Fly, fly!" You'll notice how all the children in the play Fleance and Baby DUff are spoken about ibird reference. Little chicks. Even Lady MacDuff says to the murderers "Whither should I fly?" MacBeth refers to Duncan's spirit as flying to heaven or hell. That might be a good thing to track throughout the play, the language of birds, vs. heaven, flight, youth, resurrection, etc.

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    HIS reasons at several and good. 1) This is Scotland 1040-1057a.d. These are not feeble or faint hearted people. Including the women. MacDuff's castle FIFE is well fortified, staffed and guarded. Solely through MacBeth's insider-info do the second murderer's gain entrance. (There is even some speculation that the '3rd murderer" who appears to Murderer's One and Two in the Banquo/Fleance murder scene [Act III scene iii] in the forest, is actually MacBeth Some productions have it cast as Seyton who provides a mortal extension of the witches into the mix, but I think and have done it, that it is MUCH more powerful to have MacBeth be the one who helps to kill Banquo and kills Lady and Babies Duff. It just ratchets up the evil. One production I was in, used me as Lady Macbeth for the servant in Act III scene ii who tries to warn Lady MacDuff to flee .."Bless you, fair dame! ...I dare abide no longer...". What was very helpful is that after I said that as Lady MacBeth in disguise, I was trapped in the room and hid while the slaughter happened and SAW MY HUSBAND MURDER HER AND THE CHILD. As you know, Lady M's next scene is the sleep walking scene which was aided enormously for me with that knowledge of what she had seen her husband do, not just heard or suspected, but actually seen.) Sorry for the tangent. So, MacDuff is away from Fife on a regular basis what with one military campaign or another. It is well fortified and he has no reason to doubt the safety of his wife and children. In fact, taking Lady and the babes with him to England escape capture and raise an army and go into another campaign is far more dangerous for them all around. He has fewer resources to protect them on the road, and he can travel faster without them. The larger issue at this point is SAVING THE KINGDOM OF SCOTLAND. Also, clearing his name and honor which is a big, fat deal in 1057 Scotland. When we see Macduff in Act II sscene ii he is on his way home to Fife disdaining invitation to go to Scone to see MacBeth crowned. MacBeth remarks on his absence late in Act III scene v (The famous Banquet scene where he sees Banquo's ghost) ..."How say'st thou, that MacDuff denies his person, at our great bidding?...but I will send: there's not a one of them but in his house I keep a servant fee'd ...I am in blood stept in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were a tedious a go o'er: ...". At t his point we know that MacDuff IS AT HOME in Fife. He leaves just prior to the murderer's arrival. Fife is It is 8 hours or 460.1 miles via M6 from Fife to Whitehall Palace, England. We know all English monarchy, including James II resided in Whitehall from 1530 until 1698. We may ASSUME, incorrectly or otherwise, that Shakespeare's audience would be doing the math in their heads regarding travel time. It would make no sense for MadDuff to drag a wife and two small children along on a journey which back then would easily have been 5 time as long given the lack of roads, shelter, food sources, etc along the way. That's a long haul with no backup or decent resources and could probably rely on at least one if not both of the children perishing from exposure, starvation, disease, bandits, etc. The only person to blame for the death of the 'Duffs is MacBeth. Once he learns from the witches that he can't be killed by 'any of woman born' he decides instantly not to kill MacDuff. He does however, go after MacDuff's lineage for the same reason as he tried to kill Fleance. He wants no possible successors to the throne. Bear in mind, that Scotland at the time did not do primogenitor. The early history of Scotland is littered with bodies, literally. The King was chosen based on military prowess. The aging Duncan is long overdue for replacement as he cannot fight in battles anymore. If he is dead, and the person named by Duncan is a traitor (regardless of bloodline) than the best man left standing takes his place. This would be Macbeth. Or Banquo. Then MacDuff should the other two prove unable to serve or are murdered in their beds which was a very common problem in early Scotland. The average reign was something ridiculous like three years, if you were lucky and you didn't die in your sleep. You were either killed in battle or in your bed. Finally, Lady MacDuff and her children are no threat to MacBeth at all as far as the world is concerned. MacDuff's offspring have no more chance of being King than anybody else given the rules of play at that time and they're certainly not old enough and Lady MacDuff can't be Queen on her own.

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    The thing about Macbeth is his slow decline in character triggered by his wife's ambition. He starts a fairly good man and ends up a ruthless butcher. Its a lesson for talented leaders today how easy it is to slide down that slippery slope. Even at the end we glimpse flashes of his inherent goodness as when faced with McDuff he says he has spilt enough of his families blood. The beauty of Shakespeare is we can see our own potential failings shinning through his tortured characters.

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    Thank you for fascinating posts.

    Quote Originally Posted by siobankelley View Post
    ...Are you referring to her only scene in the play ACT IV scene ii
    Indeed.

    Quote Originally Posted by siobankelley View Post
    It simply does not occur to him that MacBeth is such a savage as to murder his wife, children, servants, livestock and torch his castle in the bargain. MacDuff's reaction in Act IV scene iii when Ross gives him the news of the slaughter bears witness to the depth of love for his wife and child. Indeed, some of the most moving imagery and dialogue is in those moments following the news.
    It simply does not occur to him? Neither Lady Macduff nor I would agree with you. Is the well-being of wife and child of so little import? Self sacrificing Banquo, by contrast, loves Fleance.

    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;

    Quote Originally Posted by siobankelley View Post
    Yes, Lady MacDuff has very sound reasons and again the complete moral imperative in the situation.
    As you say. Lady Macduff has the high ground, her young son is naive and fawning cousin Ross, a cowardly dissembler. "Whither should I fly?"

    Son. Nay, how will you do for a husband?
    Lady Macduff. Why, I can buy me twenty at any market.

    Quote Originally Posted by siobankelley View Post
    HIS reasons at several and good. 1) This is Scotland 1040-1057a.d. These are not feeble or faint hearted people. Including the women. MacDuff's castle FIFE is well fortified, staffed and guarded. Solely through MacBeth's insider-info do the second murderer's gain entrance.
    Whose reality here? Certainly not Lady Macduff's. You say MacDuff has no reason to doubt the safety of his wife and children. Are not grand affairs of state and expedience simply more pressing?

    Quote Originally Posted by siobankelley View Post
    That's a long haul with no backup or decent resources and could probably rely on at least one if not both of the children perishing from exposure, starvation, disease, bandits, etc. The only person to blame for the death of the 'Duffs is MacBeth..
    A bloodless rationalization fit for Rambo.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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