The Macduffs are foils to the Macbeths
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In Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” the Macduffs are foils to the Macbeths because the Macduffs are good, heroic characters, and the Macbeths are evil-oriented people. Macbeth is only loyal to himself, while Macduff gets tested, and proven to be loyal to Scotland and the king. Macbeth and Macduff contrast each other in many ways, such as Macbeth’s inability to have a family, while Macduff’s most precious thing in his life is his family. Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff are also foils. Lady Macduff hates lying and treachery, and in contrast Lady Macbeth loves to lie and commit acts of treachery. Lady Macbeth is a murderous, destructive character, while Lady Macduff is the opposite in that she is maternal, kind, and loving. The Macduffs and Macbeths are exact opposites as written by William Shakespeare, making them the perfect foil for each other.
Macduff comes face to face with his true enemy when he knocks at the gate of Macbeth’s castle. He discovers Macbeth’s hidden self, finding out about the evil and wicked acts Macbeth carried out when he killed Duncan. Macduff immediately wakes everyone, pulling them from bed to explain what he has learned about Macbeth, “Awake awake! Ring the alarum bell! Murder and treason! Banquo and Donaldbain! Malcolm, awake, shake off this downy sleep, death’s counterfeit, and look on death itself.” Macduff has found the real truth, and his brave, honorable personality comes through that night.
In addition to being loyal to only himself, Macbeth is also overconfident and cocky. He displays his arrogance and over-confident personality when he visits the witches in Act IV, scene iii. “Then live, Macduff, what need I fear of thee?” Macbeth is acting as if he were invincible, and he feels like nothing can bring him down. Ultimately, these arrogant thoughts will lead to the downfall of Macbeth. Macbeth concededly proclaims, “That will never be: Who can impress the forest, bid the tree unfix his earthbound root? Sweet bodements, good.” Macbeth’s arrogant attitude will lead to his fall as a tragic hero.
Macbeth foils Macduff in many other ways. Macbeth cannot have a family, as he in incapable of conceiving a child with Lady Macbeth, while Macduff has a family. Macduff’s family is very important and precious to him. Macduff desires to murder Macbeth after Macbeth cowardly murders Macduff’s wife and children. Macbeth always acts gutless and evil, whereas Macduff is the more honorable and brave character in the play. Macduff describes how he cannot take appropriate revenge on Macbeth because he does not have any children, “He has no children. All my pretty ones? Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? What, all my pretty chickens and their dam at one fell swoop?” Macduff vows to get even with honor. He plans to get vengeance by murdering Macbeth, “Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself; within my sword’s length set him. If he scape, Heaven forgive him too.” Macduff swears to do the right thing, by fighting Macbeth fairly, and not killing him from behind, but rather face to face.
Macbeth is a villainous character, while Macduff always behaves honorably. Macbeth always finds a way to get by with a cowardly act, until he met his demise when he is slaughtered by Macduff as reprisal. Macbeth is influenced by his wife, Lady Macbeth, as she forces him to evolve into an even more villainous character as the play progresses. Macbeth finally assures himself that he is more powerful than his wife, and he shows the extent of his true evil side, “But let the frames of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer, ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep in the affliction of these terrible dreams that shake us nightly.” Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are going to have to live with their poor decisions, and live everyday like it maybe their last because vengeance-seekers will soon begin to hunt for them.
Near the end of the play, Lady Macbeth finally admits to her role in the murders. This becomes an obsession and finally forces her into a state of mental illness, “The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now? What, will these hands ne’er be clean? No more o’ that, my lord, no more o’ that. You mar all with this starting.” Lady Macbeth, which ultimately must live with the fact that she feels responsible for the murders and it takes an enormous toll on her.
William Shakespeare created the perfect foils in “Macbeth,” writing two sets of characters that epitomize the words opposite and contrast. The Macbeths and Macduffs differ on every issue and character trait in the play, from their views on family and children to their views on morality, loyalty, and honor. That is why the Macduffs are foils to the Macbeths in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”