Macbeth Act 4 Discussion Questions

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.

In this lesson, we will pick some important study questions from Act 4 of Macbeth. We will then discuss them in order to better understand what is going on in the play.


The plot thickens in Act 4 of Macbeth, as Macbeth learns from the three witches that his throne is in danger. Evil completely takes him over, and he begins taking any and all measures to protect his reign.

The Witches Return

In Act 4 of Macbeth, how do the three witches further influence Macbeth's actions? The three witches in Macbeth show up every once in a while and tell Macbeth about his future. But more importantly, as has been the case since Act 1 Scene 1, they push the story forward by compelling, or convincing, Macbeth to do certain things.

In this case, Macbeth goes to the three witches and demands they tell him his immediate future. The witches tell him 4 things, through apparitions, or ghostly images. The first apparition warns him to beware of Macduff, one of the Scottish noblemen loyal to Duncan, the murdered king.

This compels Macbeth to plot to kill Macduff, just to be sure. The second apparition tells him that no man born from a woman will kill Macbeth. The third one tells him that he will not be defeated until Birnam forest moves to Dunsinane hill, about 5 or so miles away. These apparent impossibilities make Macbeth believe that he is invincible.

The fourth apparition foretells that Banquo's lineage, or family line, will be kings for many generations. This is basically a repeat of the witches' prophecy in Act 1, but it still worries Macbeth since he was unable to kill Banquo's son, Malcolm.

Hatred And Paranoia

How does Macbeth feel about himself after his meeting with the three witches? After seeing the apparitions, Macbeth hates the witches for causing him so much worry. But more importantly, he hates himself for listening to them and trusting in what they have to say.

After all, it is the witches who worry Macbeth with their prophecies and warnings, fueling his paranoia. Macbeth regrets having ever listened to them but knows that it is too late now. He needs their help to know what to do next.

Uncertainty Arises

Why is Macduff away from his family? Macbeth, having been warned by the witches to keep an eye on Macduff, looks for him but finds out that he is away in England. He has left his family unprotected to meet with Malcolm, Duncan's son, and King James.

Macduff wants King James to help Malcolm raise an army so he can return to Scotland and reclaim the throne from Macbeth. However, Lady Macduff is angry at her husband for leaving them to fend for themselves.

She knows his allegiance, or loyalty, is with Malcolm, Macbeth's enemy. This scares her, and on top of that, makes her wonder if Macduff has switched his allegiance from Malcolm to Macbeth.

Murder Most Foul

What does Macbeth do to Macduff's family? Why? It turns out that Lady Macduff's fears are well founded. Having been warned by the three witches, and unable to find Macduff himself, Macbeth kills Macduff's wife, children, and all their servants.

There may be a couple of reasons why Macbeth commits yet another horrible murder. It could be because he wants to scare Macduff and keep him from coming back to Scotland. Or perhaps Macbeth wants Macduff to return to Scotland for revenge so he can kill him as well.

Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that Macbeth will do anything he feels is necessary to keep his grip on power and remain on the throne, even if it means murdering innocent women and children.

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