Macduff is the Thane of Fife. Commanded by Duncan to visit him early in the morning at Macbeth’s castle, he discovers the King’s body.
Though he accepts the explanation that Duncan’s attendants committed the murder at his sons’ instigation, he refuses to attend Macbeth’s coronation. Having refused to attend a feast of Macbeth’s, he is cast into disgrace, and travels to England to beg King Edward to help Malcolm overthrow the usurper. His wife accuses him of lacking natural human feeling and of being a coward for having fled. A noble and ethical idealist, he is horrified by Malcolm’s listing of his own vices, and finally must conclude that the young man is no more worthy of the throne than Macbeth. The revelation that Malcolm was merely testing him leaves him a touch off-kilter. Though he left them in Scotland, he remains fond of his wife and children, and is devastated when he learns that they have been slaughtered on his account. This grief becomes his chief spur against Macbeth. He leads a part of Malcolm’s army, but at the battle of Dunsinane soon abandons them while on a single-minded quest to find and kill Macbeth himself. Finding him, he wastes little time in dialogue, preferring to trust to his sword. He tears Macbeth’s last hope from him by revealing that he was the issue of a Caesarean birth, and threatens him with abject humiliation. In the end, he succeeds in beheading him.