Although Ross is a minor character in Shakespeare’s ”Macbeth”, he is responsible for delivering messages to the major characters of the play. In this lesson, we will discuss Ross and analyze his role in the play.
Who Is Ross?
Ross is Macduff’s cousin and initially a loyal Scottish noble.
We first meet Ross in Act 1 of the play when he delivers the news of Macbeth’s victory over the King of Norway to King Duncan. Later in Act 1, it is Ross who first greets Macbeth after the witches tell him that he will one day be king. Ross begins by saying to Macbeth, The King hath happily received, Macbeth, / The news of thy success’ (Act 1, Scene 3). Ross also has good news for Macbeth. ‘And, for an earnest of greater honour, / He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor (Act 1, Scene 3).It is because of Ross that Macbeth realizes the witches’ prophecies are coming true. We continue to see Ross in the first part of the play, although he does not have many lines.
He is one of King Duncan’s men, so he arrives with Duncan to Macbeth’s castle. In Act 2, when King Duncan is found murdered, we learn that Ross is sleeping in the castle as well. During the night, he hears the alarm bells and arrives to see Macbeth murdering the two guards.
At this part of the play, he is one of the men who rushes to the stage, but again has no lines.
Ross on Macbeth’s Side
The morning after King Duncan’s murder, Ross reflects on the darkness of the day. Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man’s act (Act 2, Scene 4). Ross believes that the sky is dark that day because the heavens are reacting to the murder of the king. In the same scene, Ross and Macduff question the murder of King Duncan. It’s believed the guards were bribed to kill Duncan.
Although Ross may not believe this himself, he still becomes a part of Macbeth’s court. We later see him in Act 3, during the banquet for the king’s noblemen, when he tries to explain why Macbeth is acting so strange. During the banquet, Macbeth believes that he sees Banquo’s ghost.
Ross tries to explain this by telling the rest of the table that Macbeth is feeling ill.
Ross Against Macbeth
In Act 4 of the play, it is Ross who last sees Lady Macduff, telling her that her husband has fled Scotland. Although he tries to reassure her that Macduff will be fine, Ross is saddened knowing that Lady Macduff and her family are in trouble.Following the murder of Macduff’s family, Ross too flees to England and tells Macduff and Malcolm all that has happened in Scotland.
Ross then becomes a part of the army that overtakes Macbeth’s castle. In the final scene of the play, Ross gives the news that Young Siward is killed in battle. Finally, he joins the men praising Malcolm as the new king of Scotland.
Why Is Ross Important?
In the beginning of the play, Ross is one of the characters who support the idea that Macbeth is a hero.
When Ross delivers the news of Macbeth’s victory in battle, he describes his bravery to King Duncan. Till that Bellona’s bridegroom, lapped in proof, / Confronted him with self comparisons, / Point against Point rebellious, arm ‘gainst arm, / Curbing his lavish spirit (Act 1, Scene 2). Here Ross describes Macbeth as the son of a god who fought against the traitor and was able to defeat the Thane of Cawdor.
With this news and the description of the hero Macbeth offered by Ross and a Sergeant, King Duncan decides to offer Macbeth the newly vacant position of Thane of Cawdor, a royal title in Scotland. Once the first of the witches’ predictions comes true, Macbeth wants the prediction that he will be king to become true faster. This is when he decides to murder King Duncan.Later in the play, we see how quickly Ross changes loyalty. He thinks Macbeth responsible for Duncan’s death, yet he sees Macbeth’s crowning and joins his court.
At the dinner scene, we even see Ross make excuses for Macbeth, trying to protect him and ultimately, the secret of King Duncan’s death. We again see Ross change allegiances when he flees to Macduff and Malcolm in England.Finally, Ross plays one last important role in the play when he tells Siward that Young Siward was killed in battle.
Your Son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt: / He only lived but till he was a man (Act 5, Scene 8). This is the last killing that Macbeth commits before his death.
Although Ross is a minor character in Macbeth, we see him interact often with major characters. In the beginning of the play, he tells King Duncan of Macbeth’s victory in battle and of the surrender of the Thane of Cawdor. This leads the King to name Macbeth the new Thane of Cawdor, a title of high rank in Scotland, and Macbeth ultimately begins plotting King Duncan’s death.
Although Ross is silent during most of the play, he is present for King Duncan’s murder, and even questions if Macbeth is responsible for it.While Scotland begins to fall under Macbeth, Ross flees to warn Lady Macduff and joins the men in England plotting against Macbeth. In the final scenes of the play, Ross takes part in the battle that kills Macbeth and joins in the victory. Ross is important because he delivers important news to major characters and represents how quickly loyalty changes in the play.