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cheryl_shell
Posts: 156
Registered: ‎12-08-2006
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The firstlings of my hand (4.1.148)

When in Act 4, Scene 1, Macbeth learns that "Macduff is fled to England" (142), he decides to throw caution to the wind and give in to the "firstlings of [his] heart" (147). He first decision is to "Seize upon Fife, give to th' edge o' th' sword / [Macduff's] wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls / That trace him in his line" (151-53).

The question that I have never satisfactorily been able to answer is this:

Why does he do it? What does he hope to gain by this ruthless act?

What do you all think?
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Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: The firstlings of my hand (4.1.148)



cheryl_shell wrote:
When in Act 4, Scene 1, Macbeth learns that "Macduff is fled to England" (142), he decides to throw caution to the wind and give in to the "firstlings of [his] heart" (147). He first decision is to "Seize upon Fife, give to th' edge o' th' sword / [Macduff's] wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls / That trace him in his line" (151-53).

The question that I have never satisfactorily been able to answer is this:

Why does he do it? What does he hope to gain by this ruthless act?

What do you all think?


One possible answer is sheer anger at treachery. The sins of the traitor will be visited upon the wife and children.

Another possible reason is to make sure that Macduff doesn't have access to any support from home, no safe haven to sneak back to, no opportunity of his wife to keep having her bailiff work the land, producing income which she could secretly send down to Macduff.

Another possible reason is to discourage others from following Macduff's example. See what happens if you turn traitor to Scotland?

Another possible example is to seize Macduff's property so he can award it to somebody who supports him. It was not uncommon at the time to seize the estates of those who betrayed the king and give them to loyalists. Get rid of the wife and children who would have a claim, declare Macduff traitor, and take his property to use for Macbeth's benefit.

Just a few possible reasons that pop into my head.
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LizzieAnn
Posts: 2,344
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: The firstlings of my hand (4.1.148)

Any of those reasons could be behind the murder of Macduff's family. I think that Macbeth's anger & frustration cause him to authorize this evil act. He feels thwarted that Macduff escaped from him.

Macbeth says "Time, thou anticipat'st my dread exploits." (4.1.144) These "dread exploits" were probably some kind of action against Macduff resulting in his murder.

Earlier in the scene, after learning the omen that Macduff is his enemy, Macbeth states: "But yet I'll make assurance double sure / And take a bond of fate. Thou salt not live," (4.1.83-4)

Although he believes that Macduff's no threat to him due to the omen about "none of woman born" being able to harm him, he still has enough worry & fear to contemplate eliminating any possibility of Macduff's being a threat. The fact that Macduff fled increases this fear, frustrates him, makes him angry, & causes him to lash out in the cruelest way possible.

It's interesting that Macbeth has been able to eliminate Duncan but not his sons; to eliminate Banquo but not his son; and yet eliminate Macduff's son but not Macduff, who seems to be the greatest threat of all.



Everyman wrote:

One possible answer is sheer anger at treachery. The sins of the traitor will be visited upon the wife and children.

Another possible reason is to make sure that Macduff doesn't have access to any support from home, no safe haven to sneak back to, no opportunity of his wife to keep having her bailiff work the land, producing income which she could secretly send down to Macduff.

Another possible reason is to discourage others from following Macduff's example. See what happens if you turn traitor to Scotland?

Another possible example is to seize Macduff's property so he can award it to somebody who supports him. It was not uncommon at the time to seize the estates of those who betrayed the king and give them to loyalists. Get rid of the wife and children who would have a claim, declare Macduff traitor, and take his property to use for Macbeth's benefit.

Just a few possible reasons that pop into my head.


Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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Carmenere_lady
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
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Re: The firstlings of my hand (4.1.148)



LizzieAnn wrote:


It's interesting that Macbeth has been able to eliminate Duncan but not his sons; to eliminate Banquo but not his son; and yet eliminate Macduff's son but not Macduff, who seems to be the greatest threat of all.



/blockquote>



Yup, so true Lizzie. By not being able to cut off the head of the snake, so to say,it appears that all of Macbeth's murders are futile. In my opinion, Macbeth knows this and takes out his frustrations on the MacDuff family.
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