The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2231 Thursday, 16 December 1999.
From: Paul Swanson <
Date: Wednesday, 15 Dec 1999 18:04:50 -0500
Subject: Malcolm and Macduff
A thought on "Macbeth" as I sit and grade my students' literary
criticism of the play:
4.3, such a crucial scene of the play, has another possible nuance I've
never considered before. In the play, we have numerous sons separated
from their fathers by Macbeth's evil: Malcolm from Duncan, Donalbain
from Duncan, Fleance from Banquo, and Lady's Macduff's son from Macduff.
Such disruption to natural order, which a family unit surely is (at
least the beginning Sonnets say so), is certainly rampant in the play;
Macduff describes how "New widows howl, new orpaans cry..." (4.3.5).
Macbeth's "breach in nature" (2.3.117) and comments to Malcolm that "The
spring, the head, the fountain of your blood / Is stopp'd" (2.3.103)
also come to mind in my argument.
Interesting, then, that we recognize the alliance of Macduff and Malcolm
is the alliance of a father and a son (though obviously not each
other's), almost a reunification of sorts, just as the links in
Scotland's natural order will be restored and unified by the end of the
play. A lot of implications, I suspect. Duncan is not only the "spring"
and "head" of Duncan, of course; is the head (figuratively and
literally) of Scotland. The King, the father; the subjects the
children? We thus begin to see a restoration of order here on several
I could say more here, but a list member's recent sardonic incantation
of "Brevity is the soul of wit" has me in a self-editing mode.
Nonetheless, I find this intriguing.