Macbeth Act 2, 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 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth. It will then include a summary of Act 2, Scene 4. Macbeth is about to become King, and Malcolm and Donalbain are under suspicion for conspiracy to kill Duncan.


In Act 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth, Macduff and Lennox come to fetch the king. Macduff finds King Duncan murdered in his bed. Lennox accuses Duncan's attendants, holding daggers and covered in blood, of the King's murder. Macbeth announces that he killed the attendants out of love for Duncan. Malcolm and Donalbain fear a conspiracy and flee unnoticed. Malcolm runs away to England, and Donalbain to Ireland.

Strangeness Afoot

As Act 2, Scene 4 of Macbeth begins, Ross and a random old man talk outside Macbeth's castle. They discuss the strange things that have been happening the past few days. Ross wonders how it can be dark in the daytime. The old man tells him that he saw a small owl kill a powerful falcon a few days ago. The strangeness continues as Ross tells the old man that around the same time, he saw Duncan's two beautiful and well behaved horses suddenly act like wild, untamed horses. They attacked everyone and everything and then ate each other. Ross says had he not seen it himself, he would not have believed such a crazy story.

Macduff Brings News

At this point, Macduff comes out of the castle. Ross asks him if Duncan's killers have been found. Macduff tells him that it was the two attendants whom Macbeth killed. Ross wonders, 'What good could they pretend?' What motive could they possibly have for killing the King? Macduff gives him an unexpected answer: 'They were suborned. / Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's two sons, / Are stol'n away and fled, which puts upon them / Suspicion of the deed.' He tells Ross that someone likely paid the attendants to murder Duncan.

Since the King's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, quietly run off after the murder is discovered, they are the prime suspects. Ross is amazed by this thought but moves on: 'Then 'tis most like / The sovereignty will fall upon Macbeth.' Duncan's sons have run off, and there are no other male heirs, so Macbeth is up next. Macduff confirms that Macbeth is indeed the new King: 'He is already named and gone to Scone / To be invested.' It seems Macbeth has already been chosen as Duncan's successor, the person next in line to the throne of Scotland.

John Langford as Macduff

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