Act III – Scene.iv
At the feast in Forres Castle, Macbeth and his wife greet the Thanes of
Scotland. Macbeth has just learned from one of the murderers that Banquo was killed, but Fleance escaped. Macbeth toasts the Thanes and also his absent friend. He then sees Banquo’s ghost, but
nobody else there can see this apparition.
As quickly as the ghost appeared, it disappears and instantly Macbeth’s confidence returns. This happens throughout the feast, and those assembled there wonder at Macbeth’s sanity.
This forces Lady Macbeth to ask the Thanes to leave, and when alone with her
husband, she tries to calm his troubled mind.
This deranged man is already planning the next murder, that of Macduff, but he needs to establish what the future is and, therefore, he plans to visit the witches once more.
Lady Macbeth tries to cover for her husband’s strange
behavior, saying that he has suffered from this affliction since he was a youth. She too is mystified by his behavior, as she cannot see the ghost. This is Macbeth’s personal tormentor. When he is
lucid, Macbeth tries to convince those present at the feast that there is order and balance in Scotland, but the audience clearly knows that this is not the case.
The news regarding Fleance’s escape is the turning point of the play, and
this is the factor that tips Macbeth over the edge. He will spiral downwards into madness and death as he realizes that the witches’ third prophecy will now probably come true. It is imperative for
Macbeth to meet with the witches again in order to retain some vestige of sanity.
Shakespeare has the ghost appear as a hideous apparition, one that would
appall the devil.
Macbeth’s hallucinations have escalated from a mere dagger to a hideous
ghost, matching his escalating madness. During this episode, Lady Macbeth keeps her cool and is able to cover for her husband, and when they are alone, she says to him “when all’s done you look but on a stool”
(Banquo’s empty seat).