Forres. The palace.
Enter LENNOX and another Lord
My former speeches have but hit your thoughts,
Which can interpret further: only, I say,
Things have been strangely borne. The
gracious Duncan
Was pitied of Macbeth: marry, he was dead:
And the right-valiant Banquo walk'd too late;
Whom, you may say, if't please you, Fleance kill'd,
For Fleance fled: men must not walk too late.
Who cannot want the thought how monstrous
It was for Malcolm and for Donalbain
To kill their gracious father? damned fact!
How it did grieve Macbeth! did he not straight
In pious rage the two delinquents tear,
That were the slaves of drink and thralls of sleep?
Was not that nobly done? Ay, and wisely too;
For 'twould have anger'd any heart alive
To hear the men deny't. So that, I say,
He has borne all things well: and I do think
That had he Duncan's sons under his key--
As, an't please heaven, he shall not--they
should find
What 'twere to kill a father; so should Fleance.
But, peace! for from broad words and 'cause he fail'd
His presence at the tyrant's feast, I hear
Macduff lives in disgrace: sir, can you tell
Where he bestows himself?
The son of Duncan,
From whom this tyrant holds the due of birth
Lives in the English court, and is received
Of the most pious Edward with such grace
That the malevolence of fortune nothing
Takes from his high respect: thither Macduff
Is gone to pray the holy king, upon his aid
To wake Northumberland and warlike Siward:
That, by the help of these--with Him above
To ratify the work--we may again
Give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights,
Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives,
Do faithful homage and receive free honours:
All which we pine for now: and this report
Hath so exasperate the king that he
Prepares for some attempt of war.
Sent he to Macduff?
He did: and with an absolute 'Sir, not I,'
The cloudy messenger turns me his back,
And hums, as who should say 'You'll rue the time
That clogs me with this answer.'
And that well might
Advise him to a caution, to hold what distance
His wisdom can provide. Some holy angel
Fly to the court of England and unfold
His message ere he come, that a swift blessing
May soon return to this our suffering country
Under a hand accursed!
I'll send my prayers with him.

In the grounds of his castle Lord Lennox was talking to an acquaintance.


“What I've said before echoes your own thinking, so come to your own conclusion. But I will say this: things have happened strangely. The gracious Duncan was pitied by Macbeth. Then he was dead. And the valiant Banquo took a late walk one night, too late as it turned out. You can say Fleance killed him since Fleance fled. Men must not walk too late at night! Who hasn't said how awful it was for Malcolm and Donalbain to kill their gracious father? A grisly deed! How it grieved Macbeth. Didn't he, in a pious rage, immediately punish the two delinquents who were still in an alcoholic stupor? Wasn't that nobly done? Yes, and wisely too. It would have angered us all to hear the men deny it. I say his behaviour was justified. If he had Duncan's sons under his lock and key – God willing, he never will- they would soon find out what it meant to kill a father. The same goes for Fleance. But enough of that! Because he speaks his mind and failed to show his face at the tyrant's feast I hear Macduff is in disgrace. Sir, do you know where he has gone?”


Lennox’s friend said: “Duncan's son, having seen his birthright snatched by the tyrant, lives at the English court. Their holy monarch, Edward the Confessor, receives him with such grace that the malevolent turn his fortunes have taken in no way diminishes his rank. It is Macduff’s intention to beg the Edward’s assistance in coaxing Siward and his warrior forces in Northumberland to rally against Macbeth. With their help - and God to ratify their hopes- we may again have feasts and peaceful nights, banish bloody knives from our meetings, pay loyal homage and receive honours free of strings. Everything we pine for now! Stories about this have so exasperated Macbeth that he is preparing for an invasion.”


“Did Macbeth send for Macduff?”


“He did. And the reply he received was short: Sir, not I. The messenger went pale, turned his back, as if to say, You'll rue the day you gave me with that answer.”


“That ought to warn him to watch his step! May some holy angel fly to the court of England and tell them he is coming for their help. That might speed our country's liberation from the reign of  such an accursed hand.”


“I'll send my prayers with him.”


They were wary of the times, they kept the conversation short and said their goodbyes. The countryside was full of spies. Many were now betraying friends and family simply to stay on good terms with Macbeth.