Act III – Scene.i
Banquo is mindful of the witches’ predictions and
suspects Macbeth of foul play. What gives him confidence is that fact that his own children will be Kings.
Macbeth persuades Banquo to come to his new palace at Forres for a banquet.
Macbeth realizes that the witches’ third prediction concerning Banquo threatens his hold on the crown. He arranges for two hired murderers to dispose of Banquo and Fleance.
This scene starts with Banquo’s short soliloquy, which is self-explanatory: -
“Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all.
As the weird women promis’d, and I fear
Thou play’dst most foully for ‘t: yet it was said
I should stand in thy posterity,
But that myself should be the root, and father
of many Kings. If there come truth from them.”
Shakespeare wishes to stress to the audience the witches’ prophesy in Act I,
and also that Banquo suspects Macbeth of Duncan’s murder.
We also see that Banquo is ambitious for his sons, but he unlike Macbeth,
has done nothing to facilitate the prophecy.
We also see a change in the Macbeth’s due to their new rank, and the new
King has quickly adopted the use of the royal ‘we’. This expression shows unity with his subjects and also authority over them.
Banquo was once on equal terms with Macbeth, but now he refers to him as ‘my
Macbeth clearly wishes to relish every moment of his Kingship and there is a
distinct lack of urgency now about his actions. A word that he is now commonly using is ‘tomorrow’, e.g. “we will take such actions tomorrow”, but this will come back to haunt him later in the play.
However, beneath the royal fa'ade, Macbeth still plots to make his position
more secure. He is concerned that he has no heir and refers to this in the phrase “upon my head they placed a fruitless crown, and put a barren scepter in my grip”. One may think that Macbeth should have
been content for Banquo and his son to succeed him, but no, in order to continue this tragedy, Macbeth plots to murder Banquo and his son.
He is clearly jealous of Banquo because the witches hailed him ‘father to a line of Kings’.
Macbeth is shown as a weak character when he hires murderers to carry out
his plot to kill Banquo.
He uses others to do his dirty work. There is a suggestion that Macbeth knows these murderers and may have used them before. It seems that Macbeth had plotted to kill Banquo previously for he reminds the murderers about their previous conversation. Macbeth wishes to be sure that the murderers would not shy away from their agreement. This suggests that Macbeth has qualms about murdering Banquo and wishes to make sure that the murderers have no moral scruples and will carry out the deed. He is making an attempt to keep at arm’s length from the deed and can justify the actions by saying to himself that it is not he who is doing the act, but the murderers, who he likens to dogs and demi-wolves. We now see a total transformation from hero to coward and murderer. This is the road that Macbeth has taken.
The audience may have been able to reconcile the death of the King by saying
that responsibility should be laid at the door of fate, but there is no justification for the killing of Banquo and his son.