Plays  +  Sonnets  +  Poems  +  Concordance  +  Advanced Search  +  About OSS

The Tragedy of Macbeth

print/save print/save view


Act IV, Scene 2

Fife. Macduff’s castle.


[Enter LADY MACDUFF, her Son, and ROSS]

  • Ross. You must have patience, madam. 1740
  • Lady Macduff. He had none:
    His flight was madness: when our actions do not,
    Our fears do make us traitors.
  • Ross. You know not
    Whether it was his wisdom or his fear. 1745
  • Lady Macduff. Wisdom! to leave his wife, to leave his babes,
    His mansion and his titles in a place
    From whence himself does fly? He loves us not;
    He wants the natural touch: for the poor wren,
    The most diminutive of birds, will fight, 1750
    Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.
    All is the fear and nothing is the love;
    As little is the wisdom, where the flight
    So runs against all reason.
  • Ross. My dearest coz, 1755
    I pray you, school yourself: but for your husband,
    He is noble, wise, judicious, and best knows
    The fits o' the season. I dare not speak
    much further;
    But cruel are the times, when we are traitors 1760
    And do not know ourselves, when we hold rumour
    From what we fear, yet know not what we fear,
    But float upon a wild and violent sea
    Each way and move. I take my leave of you:
    Shall not be long but I'll be here again: 1765
    Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward
    To what they were before. My pretty cousin,
    Blessing upon you!
  • Ross. I am so much a fool, should I stay longer, 1770
    It would be my disgrace and your discomfort:
    I take my leave at once.


  • Lady Macduff. Sirrah, your father's dead;
    And what will you do now? How will you live? 1775
  • Son. As birds do, mother.
  • Son. With what I get, I mean; and so do they.
  • Lady Macduff. Poor bird! thou'ldst never fear the net nor lime,
    The pitfall nor the gin. 1780
  • Son. Why should I, mother? Poor birds they are not set for.
    My father is not dead, for all your saying.
  • Lady Macduff. Yes, he is dead; how wilt thou do for a father?
  • Son. Nay, how will you do for a husband?
  • Son. Then you'll buy 'em to sell again.
  • Lady Macduff. Thou speak'st with all thy wit: and yet, i' faith,
    With wit enough for thee.
  • Son. Was my father a traitor, mother?
  • Son. What is a traitor?
  • Son. And be all traitors that do so?
  • Lady Macduff. Every one that does so is a traitor, and must be hanged.
  • Son. And must they all be hanged that swear and lie? 1795
  • Son. Who must hang them?
  • Son. Then the liars and swearers are fools,
    for there are liars and swearers enow to beat 1800
    the honest men and hang up them.
  • Lady Macduff. Now, God help thee, poor monkey!
    But how wilt thou do for a father?
  • Son. If he were dead, you'ld weep for
    him: if you would not, it were a good sign 1805
    that I should quickly have a new father.

[Enter a Messenger]

  • Messenger. Bless you, fair dame! I am not to you known,
    Though in your state of honour I am perfect. 1810
    I doubt some danger does approach you nearly:
    If you will take a homely man's advice,
    Be not found here; hence, with your little ones.
    To fright you thus, methinks, I am too savage;
    To do worse to you were fell cruelty, 1815
    Which is too nigh your person. Heaven preserve you!
    I dare abide no longer.


  • Lady Macduff. Whither should I fly?
    I have done no harm. But I remember now 1820
    I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
    Is often laudable, to do good sometime
    Accounted dangerous folly: why then, alas,
    Do I put up that womanly defence,
    To say I have done no harm? 1825
    [Enter Murderers]
    What are these faces?
  • Lady Macduff. I hope, in no place so unsanctified
    Where such as thou mayst find him. 1830
  • Son. Thou liest, thou shag-hair'd villain!
  • First Murderer. What, you egg!
    [Stabbing him]
    Young fry of treachery! 1835
  • Son. He has kill'd me, mother:
    Run away, I pray you!
    [Exit LADY MACDUFF, crying 'Murder!' Exeunt]
    Murderers, following her] 1840