Young Siward in Macbeth

Instructor: Katie Surber

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

Young Siward is a minor character in William Shakespeare's play ''Macbeth''. However, his brief role in the play shows Macbeth's arrogance and the commitment of the English Army to end his reign as king.

Who is Young Siward?

In Macbeth, Young Siward is the son of Siward, a general in the English Army that arrives to overthrow Macbeth. Leading up to this moment of war in the play, we have seen Macbeth's own men, including Macduff and Ross, leave Scotland to join Malcolm, King Duncan's son, in England. The men join with the English Army to end Macbeth's reign of terror and give the throne back to Malcolm.

Young Siward is described as one of the 'unrough youths that even now/Protest their first of manhood'. The description of 'unrough' means that Young Siward has yet to grow a beard, meaning he is around 15 years old. However, he is eager to 'protest their first of manhood', or to prove that he is a man.

When the army arrives at the castle, Young Siward steps forward to battle Macbeth. Macbeth kills Young Siward and laughs that it was his fate to be King. Although Young Siward is a minor character in the play, his death has a significant influence on Macbeth and the men fighting against Macbeth.

Young Siward's Death

Act 5 of Macbeth is full of action. Leading up to Young Siward's death in scene 7, the English and Scottish armies have joined forces, Macbeth prepares for battle by putting on armor but brags that 'none of woman born' could kill him, and the English army has surrounded the castle, drawing their swords preparing for battle.

In Scene 7, Young Siward finds Macbeth and asks him his name. Macbeth replies, 'Thou'll be afraid to hear it'. When Macbeth does name himself, Young Siward says to him, 'The Devil himself could not pronounce a title more hateful to mine ear'.

As Young Siward draws his sword to fight Macbeth, he says to him, 'Thou liest, abhorred tyrant; with my sword I'll prove the lie thou speak'st'. After Young Siward is slain, Macbeth boasts, 'Thou wast born of woman But swords I smile at, weapons laugh to scorn, Brandish'd by man that's of a woman born'.

The Significance

In just a few lines in a short scene, Young Siward's death has a significant role in Macbeth.

First, we see just how arrogant Macbeth has become. The castle is surrounded by the English and the Scottish armies, yet Macbeth dresses for battle and is prepared to fight any soldiers that he encounters. Macbeth truly feels that he is invincible. In Act IV, the three witches had told Macbeth, 'Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth'. When he encounters Young Siward, Macbeth easily kills him, which only supports Macbeth's belief that he cannot be stopped.

Young Siward's death also shows how far Macbeth has fallen. In the beginning of the play, he is a celebrated soldier who, because of his skills and commitment in battle, was promoted by King Duncan. However, by the end of the play, he is a ruthless tyrant who is willing to kill men, women, and children to keep his place on the throne. He had killed or ordered the killing of King Duncan, Banquo, Lady Macduff and her family, and now Young Siward.

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