Lady Macbeth as a Foil to Lady Macduff

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  • Topic: Macbeth, Lady Macduff, Macduff's son
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  • Published : October 14, 2010
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In Act IV, Scene II, where Lady Macduff appears, it is clear that Shakespeare intended her as a foil for Lady Macbeth. First of all, Lady Macduff cares about her son and has maternal instinct. She says, “To leave his wife, to leave his babes from whence himself does fly? … For the poor wren, the most diminutive of birds, will fight, her young ones in her nest, against the owl” (4.2.6-11). She is protective of her son and is a traditional mother figure; she says that even the birds care about their offspring. Unlike Lady Macduff, Lady Macbeth would rather have killed the child she nursed than to go back on what she has planned as far as killing Duncan: “How tender ‘tis love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out” (1.7.55-58). Her ambition for a higher social status is more important to her than her child is to her. Furthermore, Lady Macduff is loyal to Scotland and cares about the welfare of the country. In a conversation with Ross, Lady Macduff says, “His flight was madness. When our actions do not, our fears do make us traitors” (4.2.3-4). She considers Macduff a traitor for leaving the country and believes that every traitor should be hanged: “every one that does so is a traitor, and must be hanged” (4.2.48-49). In contrast, Lady Macbeth does not worry about the well-being of Scotland. She says, “Which shall to all our nights and days to come give solely sovereign sway and masterdom” (1.5.69-70). Killing a king obviously is weakening the welfare of the country and she thinks that Scotland only exists for her ambition to be in higher class. Most importantly, Lady Macduff lets his husband to take the lead and essentially needs him for living. When Macduff disappears, Lady Macduff asks her son, “Sirrah, your father’s dead. And what will you do now? How will you live?” (4.2.30-31). She does not know how her family will earn its living without her husband. Also, she...
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