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Act II, Scene 4
This scene opens the next morning outside Macbeths's castle with Ross and an old man conversing about the tragedy that occurred in the last scene. The old man states that in his seventy years he has never known such dreadful times. Ross agrees and adds that heaven is showing its displeasure with mankind, for even though it is morning, "darkness does the face of earth entomb, when living light should kiss it." The old man agrees that the darkness is unnatural, just like the murder. He then adds that many other strange signs have been happening. Just last Tuesday a proud falcon (Duncan) was killed by a weaker mousing owl (Macbeth). Ross adds that also Duncan's tame, royal horses "turned wild in nature...as they would make war with mankind" (much as the whole of Scotland has turned wild in civil strife and war).
As this conversation goes on, Macduff enters and says that, like the weather, he is in a dark and dismal mood (a flashback once again to the three witches on the heath). When asked if anything else is known about the murder, Macduff says it is believed that the servants who killed the king were hired to do so, and Malcolm and Donaldbain are suspected since they have fled the country. Ross comments that for a son to kill his father is the most unnatural event. Then Macduff reveals that Macbeth has been chosen king and is already at Scone for his coronation, and Duncan's body has been taken to Colmekill, "the sacred storehouse of this predecessors" to be buried. Macduff is going home to Fife, but Ross plans to go to Scone for the coronation. Macduff departs saying "our old robes sit easier than our new!" He is obviously wary about Macbeth's being king. The old man closes the scene with a blessing, "God's benison go with you, and with those that would make good of bad and friends of foes!"
This scene is a quiet interlude after the storminess of the last one. But the weather is still dreary, indicating that the state of affairs is still dark and gloom. The old man, with whom Ross converses, is meant to be a representation of all the good people of Scotland who are horrified at the king's execution and affected by it. Because he is obviously an older, religious man, he represents order, calm, and moderation amongst the chaos that swirls about him, just as Banquo had been calm and tranquil amongst the chaotic scene with the witches. The old man's demeanor and attitude also help to quiet the frantic pace of the play. (Remember, it was only yesterday when Macbeth heard the witches' predictions.) The scene also give the audience a chance to relax for a moment before the play's tempo intensifies again.
At mid point in the scene, Macduff enters and announces that Macbeth will be crowned king at Scone, the ancient capital of Scotland. Shakespeare implies that there is some antagonism between him and Macbeth, for Macduff refuses to go to the coronation and openly states that old times under Duncan will probably be easier than the new times under Macbeth. Ross, on the other hand, seeks to gain Macbeth's favor and plans to go to Scone to see him crowned king. Macbeth has achieved his goal and satisfied his lustful greed. Shakespeare, however, has already foreshadowed that Macbeth will have "troubled joy" in wearing the crown as he tries to handle his guilty conscience, the country's unrest, and the suspicions of Macduff.