Lady Macduff provides an example of a woman who generally stays within the bounds of her gender, serving as an appropriate foil to Lady Macbeth’s disorderly dissent. The first impression of Lady Macduff, however, presents her slightly out of place, as when she receives news that her husband has fled she responds, “His flight was madness. When our actions do not/Our fears do make us traitors” (IV.ii.3-4). This criticism against her husband immediately puts Lady Macduff out of place, as women at this time were expected to accept whatever actions their husbands chose and were never permitted to criticize their mistakes. Yet although this comment is out of character for a woman and places her among the ranks of Lady Macbeth, she is redeemed when she reveals her intentions for this criticism, expressing that Macduff “loves us not/He wants the natural touch, for the poor wren/The most diminutive of birds, will fight/Her young ones in her nest, against the owl” (IV.ii.8-11). By using the example of birds remaining loyal to their young against any fatal threats, Lady Macduff implies that her husband is disrupting the order of familial bonds by deserting his wife and children when danger lurks nearby. This criticism therefore separates Lady Macduff from Lady Macbeth because she calls for her husband to see reason and to choose moral actions, while Lady Macbeth’s criticisms were meant to steer her husband to commit acts of violent treachery. It is Lady Macduff’s determination to restore familial order which leads to her destruction, however, as she is unable to provide protection when Macbeth’s hired murderers attack her and her children and she cries, “Why then, alas/Do I put up that womanly defense/To say I have done no harm?” (IV.ii.75-78). From this statement, Lady Macduff characterizes the condition of women to be weak and powerless against ruthless forces and his additionally provides commentary on the backward state of Scotland, as the innocent are being killed. Macbeth’s tyrannical kingship has led to this disorder, and since this rule was initiated by Lady Macbeth’s initial idea of pushing her husband into action, Lady Macduff’s character and death comes to represent the inability to maintain order and tradition when powerful individuals have chosen to rule through chaos.
Murry Young as Macduff's Son and Lindsey Young as Lady Macduff in Union University's production of Macbeth