Macbeth: Summary & Analysis Macbeth Act 4, Scene 1 The witches circle a cauldron, mixing\u00a0during a\u00a0sort of\u00a0grotesque ingredients while chanting "double, double toil and trouble; \/ Fire burn, and cauldron bubble" (10-11). Hecate appears, they sing\u00a0all at once\u00a0, and Hecate leaves. Macbeth then enters, demanding answers to his pressing\u00a0questions on\u00a0the longer term. The witches complete their\u00a0spell\u00a0and summon forth a series of apparitions.\u00a0the primary\u00a0is an armed head that warns Macbeth to beware the Thane of Fife (Macduff). The second apparition\u00a0may be a\u00a0bloody child, who tells him that "none of woman born \/ Shall harm Macbeth" (96-97). This news bolsters Macbeth's spirits. The third apparition\u00a0may be a\u00a0crowned child with a tree in its hand, who says that "Macbeth shall never vanquish be until \/ Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill \/ Shall come against him" (107-09). This cheers Macbeth even more since he knows that nothing can move a forest. Macbeth proceeds to ask his last question: will Banquo's children ever rule Scotland? The cauldron sinks and\u00a0a weird\u00a0sound is heard. The witches now show Macbeth a procession of kings, the eighth of whom holds a mirror in his hand, followed by Banquo. As Banquo points at this line of kings, Macbeth realizes that\u00a0they're\u00a0indeed his\u00a0family. After the witches dance and disappear, Lennox enters with the news that Macduff has fled to England. Macbeth resolves that he will henceforth act immediately on his ambitions:\u00a0the primary\u00a0step\u00a0is going to be\u00a0to seize Fife and kill Macduff's wife\u00a0and youngsters. Act 4, Scene 2 At Fife, Ross visits Lady Macduff, who is frightened for her safety now that her husband has fled. He reassures her by telling her that her husband did only what was right and necessary. After he leaves, Lady Macduff engages her son\u00a0during a\u00a0conversation about his missing father.\u00a0the small\u00a0boy demonstrates wisdom well beyond his years. A messenger interrupts them with a warning\u00a0to escape\u00a0the house immediately. But before Lady Macduff can escape, murderers attack the house and kill everyone including Lady Macduff and her son. Act 4, Scene 3 Macduff arrives at\u00a0the English\u00a0court and meets with Malcolm. Malcolm, remembering his father's misplaced trust in Macbeth, decides\u00a0to check\u00a0Macduff: he confesses that\u00a0he's\u00a0a greedy, lustful, and sinful man who makes Macbeth\u00a0appear as if\u00a0an angel\u00a0as compared. Macduff despairs and says that he will leave Scotland forever if\u00a0this is often\u00a0the case since there seems to be no man\u00a0fit\u00a0rule it. Upon hearing this, Malcolm is convinced of Macduff's goodness\u00a0and divulges\u00a0that he was merely testing him; he has none\u00a0of those\u00a0faults to which he has just confessed. In fact, he claims,\u00a0the primary\u00a0lie he has ever told was this false confession to Macduff. He then announces that Siward has assembled\u00a0a military\u00a0of ten thousand men and\u00a0is ready\u00a0to\u00a0advance\u00a0Scotland. A messenger appears and tells\u00a0the lads\u00a0that the king of England is approaching, attended by a crowd of sick and despairing\u00a0people that\u00a0wish the king to cure them. The king,\u00a0consistent with\u00a0Malcolm,\u00a0features a\u00a0gift for healing people\u00a0just by\u00a0laying his hands on them. Ross arrives from Scotland and reports that the country is\u00a0during a\u00a0shambles. When Macduff asks how his wife\u00a0and youngsters\u00a0are faring, Ross first responds that\u00a0they're\u00a0\u201cwell at peace\u201d (180). When pressed further, he relates the story of their death. Macduff is stunned speechless and Malcolm urges him to cure his grief by exacting revenge on Macbeth. Macduff is overcome with guilt and sorrow from the murders that occurred while he was absent. Again Malcolm urges him\u00a0to place\u00a0his grief to good use and seek revenge. All three men leave\u00a0to organize\u00a0for battle. Analysis As the act opens, the witches\u00a0keep it up\u00a0the theme of doubling and equivocation that threads throughout the play. As they throw ingredients into their cauldron, they chant "Double, double, toil and trouble"\u2014a reminder that their speech is\u00a0filled with\u00a0double meanings, paradox, and equivocation (IV i 10). The apparitions that the witches summon give equivocal messages to Macbeth,\u00a0and that they\u00a0appear\u00a0to understand\u00a0quite consciously that he will only understand one\u00a0half\u00a0their words. Although Macbeth himself has previously acknowledged that "stones\u00a0are\u00a0known\u00a0to maneuver\u00a0and trees to speak" (III iv 122), the apparitions give Macbeth a false sense of security. He takes the apparitions' words at face value, forgetting\u00a0to look at\u00a0how their predictions could potentially come true. The theme of doubling is amplified when the witches summon the "show of kings." Each king who appears looks "too\u00a0just like the\u00a0spirit of Banquo," frightens Macbeth with their resemblance (IV i 128). For Macbeth,\u00a0it's\u00a0as if the ghosts of Banquo have returned to haunt him several times over.\u00a0within the\u00a0procession of kings, Macbeth also notes that some carry "twofold balls and treble scepters"\u2014as if even the signs of their power\u00a0are\u00a0doubled. On a historical note,\u00a0it's\u00a0generally thought the eighth king holds up a mirror\u00a0to pander to\u00a0James I. This last king\u2014the eighth-generation descendant of Banquo\u2014is none\u00a0aside from\u00a0a figure of\u00a0James I\u00a0himself. He thus carries a mirror to signal\u00a0the maximum amount\u00a0to\u00a0the important\u00a0James I, who sits at the forefront of the audience.\u00a0an identical\u00a0moment of pandering occurs when Malcolm notes that the king of England\u00a0features a\u00a0special power to heal people\u00a0suffering from\u00a0\u201cthe evil\u201d (147). In various subtle ways, Shakespeare complimented King James I\u2014a legendary descendant of Banquo and author of a book on witchcraft (Daemonologie ). James I\u00a0isn't\u00a0the sole\u00a0character who is doubled in Macbeth. Throughout the play, characters balance and complement\u00a0one another\u00a0during a\u00a0carefully constructed harmony. As\u00a0a person\u00a0who also receives a prophecy but refuses to act actively upon it, Banquo\u00a0is\u00a0a kind of\u00a0inverse\u00a0reflection\u00a0of Macbeth. Although he has troubled dreams like Macbeth, he arises from the suppression of ambitions whereas Macbeth arises from the fulfillment thereof. Other major characters, including Malcolm, Macduff,\u00a0and woman\u00a0Macbeth,\u00a0also can\u00a0be seen as foils or doubles for Macbeth. Particularly interesting\u00a0is that the\u00a0case of Lady Macbeth, who in some sense \u201cswitches roles\u201d with Macbeth\u00a0because the\u00a0play progresses. Whereas she first advises Macbeth to forget all remorse and guilt, Lady Macbeth becomes increasingly troubled by her guilt as Macbeth begins to heed her advice. Another\u00a0sort of\u00a0doubling or equivocation is found\u00a0within the\u00a0theme of costumes, masks, and disguises. While planning Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth counsels Macbeth to "look\u00a0just like the\u00a0innocent flower, \/ But be the serpent under"\u2014to "beguile the time" by disguising his motives behind a mask of loyalty (I v 61). After the murder, Lady Macbeth paints the bodyguards' faces with a mask of blood to implicate them. Similarly, while preparing to kill Banquo, Macbeth comments that men must "make faces visors to hearts, \/ Disguising what they are" (III ii 35-36). Thus when Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty, he begins appropriately by saying that "all things foul would wear the brows of grace" (IV iii 23). Even\u00a0the foremost\u00a0foul of men\u2014perhaps like Macbeth\u00a0and therefore the\u00a0murderers\u2014are\u00a0ready to\u00a0disguise themselves.\u00a0even as\u00a0the witches\u2019 equivocation covers up\u00a0truth\u00a0harm within their alluring words, disguises, and masks hide the inner world from the outer. Finally, during the scene\u00a0during which\u00a0the murders occur, Lady Macduff reflects the bird symbolism that began in Act 1. When Lady Macduff complains to Ross about the abrupt departure of Macduff, she states: "the poor wren \/\u00a0the foremost\u00a0diminutive of birds, will fight, \/ Her young ones in her nest, against the owl" (IV ii 9-11). Her metaphor\u00a0involves\u00a0life when she and her son are attacked by Macbeth's men. Macbeth, as earlier established, is identified with the owl; so Lady Macduff, trying\u00a0to guard\u00a0her son, becomes the wren\u00a0during a\u00a0realization of her own figure of speech.\u00a0it's\u00a0with particular pathos that the audience sees Macduff\u2019s precocious son fall prey to the swords of Macbeth\u2019s ruthless murderers.