Macbeth - Character Analysis Macduff

Macduff is the archetype of the avenging hero, not simply out for revenge but with a good and holy purpose. Macduff is the character who has two of the most significant roles in the play: First, he is the discoverer of Duncan’s body. Second, the news of the callous murder of his wife and children (Act IV, Scene 3) spurs him toward his desire to take personal revenge upon the tyrannical Macbeth. When he knocks at the gate of Macbeth’s castle in Act II, Scene 3, he is being equated with the figure of Christ, who before his final ascension into Heaven, goes down to release the souls of the damned from hell (the so-called “Harrowing of Hell”).

Like Macbeth, Macduff is also shown as a human being. When he hears of the death of his “pretty chickens,” he has to hold back his emotions. Even when (in Act IV, Scene 3) Malcolm urges him to “Dispute it like a man,” Macduff’s reply “I will do so. But I must also feel it as a man” enables the audience to weigh him against Macbeth, an unfeeling man if ever there was one. In the final combat between hero and anti-hero, this humanity is recalled once more when Macduff cries out, “I have no words; my voice is in my sword.” It is his very wordlessness that contrasts with Macbeth’s empty rhetoric.

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