Ross in Macbeth: Character Analysis

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  • 0:01 Who Is Ross?
  • 1:14 Ross on Macbeth's Side
  • 2:01 Ross Against Macbeth
  • 2:40 Why Is Ross Important?
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

Although Ross is a minor character in Shakespeare's ''Macbeth'', he is responsible for delivering messages to the major characters of the play. In this lesson, we will discuss Ross and analyze his role in the play.

Who Is Ross?

Ross is Macduff's cousin and initially a loyal Scottish noble. We first meet Ross in Act 1 of the play when he delivers the news of Macbeth's victory over the King of Norway to King Duncan. Later in Act 1, it is Ross who first greets Macbeth after the witches tell him that he will one day be king. Ross begins by saying to Macbeth, The King hath happily received, Macbeth, / The news of thy success' (Act 1, Scene 3). Ross also has good news for Macbeth. 'And, for an earnest of greater honour, / He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor (Act 1, Scene 3).

It is because of Ross that Macbeth realizes the witches' prophecies are coming true. We continue to see Ross in the first part of the play, although he does not have many lines. He is one of King Duncan's men, so he arrives with Duncan to Macbeth's castle. In Act 2, when King Duncan is found murdered, we learn that Ross is sleeping in the castle as well. During the night, he hears the alarm bells and arrives to see Macbeth murdering the two guards. At this part of the play, he is one of the men who rushes to the stage, but again has no lines.

Ross on Macbeth's Side

The morning after King Duncan's murder, Ross reflects on the darkness of the day. Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man's act (Act 2, Scene 4). Ross believes that the sky is dark that day because the heavens are reacting to the murder of the king. In the same scene, Ross and Macduff question the murder of King Duncan. It's believed the guards were bribed to kill Duncan.

Although Ross may not believe this himself, he still becomes a part of Macbeth's court. We later see him in Act 3, during the banquet for the king's noblemen, when he tries to explain why Macbeth is acting so strange. During the banquet, Macbeth believes that he sees Banquo's ghost. Ross tries to explain this by telling the rest of the table that Macbeth is feeling ill.

Ross Against Macbeth

In Act 4 of the play, it is Ross who last sees Lady Macduff, telling her that her husband has fled Scotland. Although he tries to reassure her that Macduff will be fine, Ross is saddened knowing that Lady Macduff and her family are in trouble.

Following the murder of Macduff's family, Ross too flees to England and tells Macduff and Malcolm all that has happened in Scotland. Ross then becomes a part of the army that overtakes Macbeth's castle. In the final scene of the play, Ross gives the news that Young Siward is killed in battle. Finally, he joins the men praising Malcolm as the new king of Scotland.

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