Macbeth Act 1, Scene 4: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson will begin with a brief recap of Act 1, Scene 3 of Macbeth. We will then move on to a summary of Act 1, Scene 4, where King Duncan personally thanks Macbeth for his brave service and declares his son Malcolm heir to his throne.

Recap of Act 1, Scene 3

In Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3, Macbeth and Banquo met the three witches on the heath near the battlefield. Macbeth was startled at the greetings from the witches, who told him he will one day be King. Macbeth considered that prophecy, but was not sure if he believed it or not. He and Banquo then continued on their way to King Duncan's palace.

Macbeth and Banquo
Macbeth and Banquo on the heath

A Noble Death

As Act 1, Scene 4 of Macbeth begins, King Duncan sits in his palace in Forres. His sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, and a few of his generals are also there. Duncan wants to know if the former Thane of Cawdor has been executed yet for his betrayal.

Malcolm answers his father's question. 'I have spoke With one that saw him die.' Malcolm then goes on to say 'very frankly he confess'd his treasons, Implored your highness' pardon and set forth A deep repentance.' Just before his death, the former Thane of Cawdor repented and showed real regret for his betrayal. He then asked for King Duncan's forgiveness.

Malcolm concludes by saying 'nothing in his life Became him like the leaving it.' He explains that by repenting and asking for the King's forgiveness, the former Thane of Cawdor died a noble death. King Duncan agrees.

The King Praises Macbeth

Immediately after Malcolm's report, Macbeth, Banquo, Ross, and Angus enter. King Duncan showers Macbeth with praises. 'The sin of my ingratitude even now Was heavy on me: thou art so far before, that swiftest wing of recompense is slow To overtake thee.' King Duncan regrets that Macbeth had been too far away to receive his thanks and reward sooner.

Macbeth, however, responds like a loyal soldier would. 'The service and loyalty I owe, In doing it, pays itself Your highness' part, is to receive our duties.' Macbeth tells the King that his loyalty and bravery as a soldier are simply his job, just like it is the King's job to receive that loyalty and bravery.

Actor Charles Kean as Macbeth, 1858
Charles Kean as Macbeth

The King Praises Banquo

King Duncan has not forgotten his other brave general. He greets Banquo warmly as well. 'Noble Banquo, That hast no less deserved, nor must be known No less to have done so, let me unfold thee And hold thee to my heart.' King Duncan shows his appreciation for Banquo's service and bravery with a thank you and a firm embrace.

Banquo is unbothered that he did not receive a title like Macbeth. He still pledges his loyalty to the King. 'There if I grow, The harvest is your own.' Just like Macbeth, Banquo is willing to give his everything to the King.

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