William Shakespeare
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Act 3 Scene 1

Although Banquo suspects that Macbeth could be responsible for King Duncan’s murder, he is, however, comforted by the witches’ third prophecy of his lineage’s fate. Banquo tells Macbeth that he is going on a ride with his son, Fleance. Macbeth asks Banquo to return early that evening to visit him in his new palace. King Macbeth, remembering the witches’ third prophecy about Banquo, worries about the prospect of losing his power. So he hires two assassins and tells them to target Banquo and his son.


Banquo delivers a monologue with several important messages. First, it reminds the audience that his children are in line to become future kings of Scotland. He also reveals his suspicion that Macbeth murdered King Duncan. However, like Macbeth, Banquo retains strong ambitions. He shares Macbeth’s passion for the witches’ prophecies and feels determined for his family to retain its power over the Scottish throne.

Meanwhile, Macbeth and his wife have taken full control of the throne. To celebrate their new administration, they throw lavish parties. Macbeth uses the first-person plural “we” in his address to his subjects. In this, he attempts to connect with his subjects while also demonstrating power over them. Although Banquo finds Macbeth’s route to power suspicious, and his military abilities commensurate, Banquo acknowledges Macbeth as his superior by referring to him as “my lord.”

Macbeth's use of language reflects his newfound, elevated status. For example, his speeches are full of sophisticated rhymes. Note his use of expressions like, “Here's our chief guest” and “Fail not our feast.” In this society, kings are expected to have strong oratorical skills as a way of commanding subjects. As a result, Macbeth has risen to the occasion with previously unseen expressive abilities. Another change in Macbeth’s character is his disposition toward time. As a military man, Macbeth valued and respected time. However, upon achieving the throne, he postpones tasks to “tomorrow” because he feels that he has a lot of time. He says, “but we'll take tomorrow” to show his disregard to time, even with pressing administrative issues.

Despite his newfound power, Macbeth is not yet at ease. This is because he does not have any children to inherit the throne upon his death, jeopardizing his legacy. Given the prophecy about Banquo’s descendants, Macbeth’s fear makes sense. His following statements captures his misery: “They hailed him father to a line of kings: / Upon my head, they placed a fruitless crown, / And put a barren scepter in my grip” (60-62). “To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!” (70). Macbeth feels that the witches erred when they prophesied Banquo’s long-lasting power over the Scottish throne. Unlike Macbeth, Banquo is willing to bide his time and see the prophecy come to fruition, whereas Macbeth dismisses it. Macbeth is a decorated warrior and feels capable to conquer fate. He will do anything necessary to prevent the prophecy from happening. Thus, when the hired murderers arrive, he informs them that Banquo — his compatriot and fellow soldier — must die, alongside his son, Fleance.

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