Get notes, workbook solutions, summary, questions and answers, and pdf of the drama/play Macbeth (Act 1 Scene 4) by William Shakespeare which is part of ISC Class 11 English. However, the notes should only be treated for references and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
Act 1, Scene 4 of Macbeth takes place at King Duncan’s palace, where Duncan is waiting for the return of the executioners who have been sent to kill the Thane of Cawdor. His son, Malcolm, reports that the Thane of Cawdor died repentantly. Duncan expresses his surprise, as he had completely trusted the Thane of Cawdor.
Macbeth, Banquo, Ross, and Angus then arrive at the palace. Duncan warmly greets Macbeth, expressing his deep gratitude for Macbeth’s bravery in battle and his loyalty. He feels he has not rewarded Macbeth enough for his deeds. Macbeth responds by saying that serving Duncan is its own reward.
Duncan then announces that he will pass his kingship to his eldest son, Malcolm, naming him the Prince of Cumberland. This announcement shocks Macbeth, who had hoped to be named as Duncan’s successor. He sees Malcolm’s appointment as a major obstacle to his ambition of becoming king.
Duncan then invites Macbeth to his castle at Inverness, expressing his eagerness to meet Lady Macbeth. Macbeth leaves to deliver the news to his wife, but not before expressing his dark thoughts in a soliloquy. He contemplates the need to “o’erleap” the obstacle that is Malcolm and asks the stars to hide their light so that his “black and deep desires” will not be seen.
The scene ends with Duncan praising Macbeth’s valiance and deciding to follow Macbeth to Inverness, unaware of the danger that awaits him there.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
Select the correct option for each of the following questions:
1. King Duncan along with his sons, Lords and attendants is waiting to receive
Answer: a. Macbeth and Banquo
2. Malcolm is
Answer: b. King Duncan’s son
3. Duncan’s visit to Inverness in reality is
Answer: b. a fatal visit
Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow:
1. MALCOLM: My leige,
They are not yet come back; but I have spoke
With one that saw him die; who did report
That very frankly he confess’d his treason,
Implored your highness pardon, and set forth,
A deep repentance.
a. Who is ‘him’ in the extract? How did he die? What made him implore pardon from his highness?
Answer: ‘Him’ in the extract refers to the Thane of Cawdor. He was executed for his treasonous acts against the King. He implored pardon from the King after confessing his crime and showed deep repentance.
b. Who has not yet returned back? What work was assigned to them?
Answer: The people who have not yet returned back are the messengers who were sent to the Thane of Cawdor to inform him about his punishment.
c. What did King Duncan regret about? What is the irony involved here?
Answer: King Duncan regrets that he trusted the Thane of Cawdor, who betrayed him. The irony here is that he is unaware that he will soon be betrayed by Macbeth, whom he trusts.
d. Who enters after the extract? How are they welcomed by Duncan?
Answer: Macbeth and Banquo enter after the extract. They are welcomed by Duncan with great honour and respect.
2. O worthless cousin!
The sin of ingratitude even now
Was heavy on me. Thou art so far before,
That swiftest wing of recompense is slow
To overtake thee:
a. Who is the speaker? Who is he talking to?
Answer: The speaker is King Duncan. He is talking to Macbeth.
b. Why does the speaker feel that he suffers from the sin of ingratitude? What has the person spoken to done for the speaker to feel this way?
Answer: King Duncan feels the sin of ingratitude because he believes he has not thanked Macbeth enough for his services. Macbeth has done a lot for King Duncan, including winning battles for him and showing loyalty, which has made Duncan feel indebted to him.
c. Is the speaker correct in his assessment of the person? Give reasons to justify your answer.
Answer: At this point in the play, King Duncan’s assessment of Macbeth as a loyal and worthy kinsman is correct. Macbeth has shown bravery in battle and loyalty to the king. However, as the play progresses, Macbeth’s ambition leads him to commit regicide, proving Duncan’s initial assessment wrong.
d. Explain-“the swiftest wing of recompense”.
Answer: “The swiftest wing of recompense” is a metaphor used by King Duncan to express that even the fastest possible repayment or reward is too slow to match Macbeth’s deserving deeds. It’s a way of saying that no matter how quickly he tries to reward Macbeth, it will never be enough to truly compensate for what Macbeth has done for him.
e. What had the person done to be awarded in such a great way?
Answer: Macbeth had shown great bravery and skill in battle, leading to significant victories for King Duncan. His loyalty and service to the king were the reasons for his high regard and reward.
f. What evil intentions did the person have? What made them develop in his heart?
Answer: Macbeth develops the evil intention of usurping the throne from King Duncan. This ambition is sparked when he is named Thane of Cawdor and further fueled by the witches’ prophecy that he will become king. He contemplates the idea of murdering King Duncan to expedite his rise to the throne.
3. MACBETH: (aside) The Prince of Cumberland!- That is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,
For in my way it lies.
a. What has caused Macbeth to develop feelings of animosity towards the Prince of Cumberland?
Answer: Macbeth develops feelings of animosity towards the Prince of Cumberland, who is Malcolm, because King Duncan has named Malcolm his successor. This is a hurdle for Macbeth, who has ambitions of becoming king himself, as predicted by the witches.
b. What does Macbeth implore the stars to do just after this extract?
Answer: Macbeth implores the stars to hide their light so that no one can see his dark and deep desires. He doesn’t want his evil intentions of usurping the throne to be seen or known.
c. Who has been bestowed with the title of ‘Prince of Cumberland”?
Answer: The title of ‘Prince of Cumberland’ has been bestowed upon Malcolm, King Duncan’s eldest son.
d. Where has Macbeth gone to and to do what which makes Duncan describe him to be ‘a peerless kinsman’?
Answer: Macbeth has gone to his castle at Inverness to prepare for King Duncan’s visit and to inform his wife about the king’s arrival. Duncan describes Macbeth as a ‘peerless kinsman’ due to his loyalty, bravery in battle, and his hospitality in welcoming the king to his home.
e. Was King Duncan right in his assessment regarding Macbeth? Give reasons to justify your answer.
Answer: Initially, King Duncan’s assessment of Macbeth as a loyal and brave warrior was correct. However, as the play progresses, Macbeth’s ambition leads him to murder King Duncan to seize the throne. Therefore, in hindsight, King Duncan’s assessment was incorrect, as he failed to see Macbeth’s ambition and potential for treachery.
Essay type questions
Q. Comment on the soliloquy of Macbeth when he hears of the nomination of Malcolm as heir to the throne.
Answer: King Duncan’s decision to name Malcolm as the Prince of Cumberland is a crucial moment in Macbeth’s internal monologue. By this point, Macbeth is deeply involved in his criminal plans and has lost touch with his emotions. He has decided to eliminate any obstacles in his path. When Malcolm is announced as the heir to the throne, Macbeth realizes that he has no chance of becoming king because in Scotland, the throne doesn’t necessarily pass to the king’s son but to the most capable person. Macbeth is determined to overcome this obstacle, even if it means resorting to murder. He decides to kill Duncan and asks the stars to hide their light so no one can see his dark desires.
This situation is an example of the play’s irony or mockery of fate. The witches’ prophecy has raised Macbeth’s hopes so high that he won’t allow Malcolm to be the heir to the throne. Yet, he decides to leave the third prophecy to chance. But when he hears about Malcolm’s nomination as the Crown Prince, he sees it as a major obstacle to his ambition, as evident in his soliloquy, “The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, For in my way it lies.” Thus, Duncan’s proclamation ends Macbeth’s indecision and leads him to commit a deed that he had previously decided to leave to chance. This is referred to as the ‘Irony of action’ by Prof Moulton, and it permeates the play.
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