Scene 1 At Macbeth's new palace in Forres, Banquo, alone on stage, delivers a soliloquy: he's totally suspicious of Macbeth. But he does take the time to note that his part of the prophecy, regarding his royal seed, will also probably come true. Banquo pipes down when the newly crowned Macbeth, his lovely Queen, and a posse of noblemen enter the room. Macbeth sweet talks Banquo, calling him his honored guest and requesting his presence at a fancy banquet to be held that night. Banquo plays it cool and oh-so-casually says that he's sorry, but he has other plans. Then Macbeth oh-so-casually asks what Banquo will be up to, and finds out that he'll be riding off somewhere before dinner. Having obtained the information he needs, Macbeth changes the subject to the fact that the "bloody" Malcolm and Donalbain are suspiciously missing, and respectively hiding out with new friends in Ireland and England. Plus, it seems that Duncan's sons are busy "not confessing" to Duncan's murder —instead, they're spreading nasty rumors about their father's death. Macbeth adds a little BTW as Banquo leaves, asking if his son, Fleance, will be riding along with him that evening. Fleance will indeed be going, and upon hearing this, Macbeth bids them farewell. Everyone except for Macbeth and some servants leave the room. Macbeth then has a servant call in the men he has waiting at the gate. Left to himself, Macbeth launches into a long speech about why it's necessary and good to kill his friend, Banquo. Macbeth is worried about Banquo's noble nature, wisdom, and valor. Plus, if the rest of the witches' prophecy comes true, Macbeth figures that he'll have sold his soul to the devil (by killing Duncan) only for Banquo's kids to take his crown. He concludes his speech by inviting fate to wrestle with him, and says he won't give up until he's won or dead. The two men at the gate are brought in, and we discover that Macbeth intends for them to murder Banquo and his son while on their ride. Macbeth speechifies to the two murderers about how Banquo is their enemy and anything bad that has ever happened to them is surely Banquo's fault.Macbeth says that no turn-the-other-cheek Christianity is necessary here. The murderers respond by saying that they are only "men," and then Macbeth uses the technique he learned while being berated by his own wife: he claims they're not real men if they're not brave enough to murder a man for their own good. Eh, say the henchmen. Their lives are pretty bad anyway. They're fine with taking a chance on eternal damnation. Macbeth says that Banquo is his enemy, too, and he'd do the kingly thing and just have him publicly killed, except that they have a lot of mutual friends, which might make things a little awkward at parties. Oh, and they'll have to kill the Fleance. But right now he has to go get ready for a dinner party.
QUOTESMACBETH " If't be so, For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind, For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered, Put rancors in the vessel of my peace Only for them, and mine eternal jewel Given to the common enemy of man, To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings.Rather than so, come fate into the list, And champion me to th' utterance! " Well, this is interesting. Here, Macbeth is calling fate to his aid, asking it to "champion" him, or fight for him, in the "lists," or the tournament grounds. This doesn't sound like a fate-or-free-will situation; it sounds like a fate-and-free-will deal.BANQUO "Thou hast it now—king, Cawdor, Glamis, all, As the weird women promised, and I fear Thou played'st most foully for't. Yet it was said It should not stand in thy posterity, But that myself should be the root and father Of many kings. If there come truth from them (As upon thee, Macbeth, their speeches shine) Why, by the verities on thee made good, May they not be my oracles as well, And set me up in hope? But hush, no more. " Sure, Banquo didn't murder anyone for self gain, but he may not be as honorable as he seems. He suspects Macbeth of foul play, but does he tell anyone? No. In fact, he tells himself to "hush"—maybe because he's a little too excited about being the "root and father/ Of many kings."
Scene 2 Lady Macbeth asks a servant if Banquo is already gone, and finding he has left, asks the servant to get Macbeth for a chat. Macbeth comes along, and Lady Macbeth tells him to look more chipper and not dwell on dark thoughts, as "what's done is done." Macbeth points out they've merely scorched the snake, not killed it. Macbeth compares dead Duncan's death as a state preferable to his; at least Duncan doesn't have to worry about loose ends. All right says Lady Macbeth; just chill out there. Macbeth says she should say a lot of really nice things about Banquo, who will be otherwise engaged and not attending the dinner party. As Banquo and Fleance live, his mind is full of scorpions. Lady Macbeth states that everybody dies, which may be a warning to Macbeth to cool it, or may be a self-reassurance that everyone has to go sometime, so her husband might as well murder their friend and his kid. But really, Macbeth says, he's about to do something bad. In one of her less astute moments, Lady Macbeth asks what that naughty thing might possibly be. Macbeth dodges the question, saying it's better for her to "be innocent" and not know his plans until they're accomplished and she can applaud him for it. Hmm. It seems like Lady Macbeth no longer gets any say in her husband's affairs. Macbeth appeals to nature to let night's black agents do their thing, and then he exits with Lady Macbeth.
QUOTESMACBETH "There's comfort yet; they are assailable.Then be thou jocund. Ere the bat hath flownHis cloister'd flight, ere to black Hecate's summonsThe shard-borne beetle with his drowsy humsHath rung night's yawning peal, there shall be doneA deed of dreadful note. " Hmm. It sounds like somebody's channeling the witches. When Macbeth talks about his plans for the murder of Banquo and Fleance, he starts sound a lot like the weird sisters.
Scene 3 At a park near the palace, the two murderers are joined by a third. Only a bit of light remains in the sky. Banquo and Fleance approach on horseback and dismount to walk the mile to the palace, as usual. Conveniently, they have a torch—good for seeing by. Banquo starts up with a friendly "it looks like rain" conversation and is promptly stabbed. While being stabbed, he denounces the treachery and encourages Fleance to run away and eventually take revenge. In the meantime, the torch has gone out, and Fleance takes advantage of the darkness to escape. With Banquo dead and Fleance on the run, the murderers head off to the dinner party to report the half of the job they've done.
Scene 4 Meanwhile, back at the dinner party, the Macbeths make a big show of welcoming their guests. The first murderer enters as everyone is being seated. Macbeth darts off to see the first murderer, who informs him that they've slit Banquo's throat, but that Fleance has escaped. Macbeth is pretty sure that this is really going to tick Fleance off. And now the fun begins: Banquo's ghost shows up. Because the ghost is silent, he gets to creep around quite a bit before anyone notices. While everyone is busy not noticing, Macbeth raises a toast and calls special attention to Banquo's absence as unkindness or mischance on Banquo's part. This is particularly hilarious given the presence of…Banquo's ghost. Again Macbeth is invited to sit, and in the spot they've reserved for him sits…Banquo's ghost. Naturally, Macbeth goes into a fit, and the lords all take notice, while Lady Macbeth excuses him for these "momentary" fits he has had since childhood. She urges them to keep eating, and then corners Macbeth, who is still hysterical. Lady Macbeth asks if Macbeth is a man, because he's not acting like one so much as he is acting like a sissy. Lady Macbeth dismisses the vision as a painting of his own fear. Meanwhile, Macbeth is discoursing with the ghost that only he sees, and it disappears. Everything is just getting back to normal when the ghost reappears. Again Macbeth calls out a toast to the missing Banquo (he's just asking for it now) and noting the ghost, screams out at him that if he appeared in any other form, Macbeth's nerves would not tremble. After some challenging along this line, it's pretty clear the party's over, and though Macbeth tries to recover, he scolds everyone else for seeming to be so calm in the face of such a horrible sight. Lady Macbeth tells the now very worried lords to leave immediately, and as they exit, Macbeth philosophizes that blood will have blood. Morning is now approaching, and Macbeth points out that Macduff never showed at the party. He lets out that he has had a spy in Macduff's house. He promises to go to the witches the next day, and announces that he's in so deep a river of blood, it would be as hard to go back as to cross. Lady Macbeth suggests that maybe he just needs a good night's sleep, and so they go off to bed.
QUOTESMACBETH " For mine own good All causes shall give way. I am in blood Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,Returning were as tedious as go o'er. (3.4.167-170)" In case we still had some lingering doubts, Macbeth clears that up for us: he's doing all this "For mine own good." Great. We'll be sure not to ask him for any favors, then. LADY MACBETH " O, proper stuff!This is the very painting of your fear.This is the air-drawn dagger which you saidLed you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts,Impostors to true fear, would well become A woman's story at a winter's fire, Authorized by her grandam. Shame itself! Why do you make such faces? When all's done, You look but on a stool. (3.4.73-81)" Okay, Lady Macbeth. It's easy to make fun of your poor husband when he's the one having the visions. You won't be laughing as hard when you're the one trying wash an invisible bloodstain out of your hand. LADY MACBETH " Are you a man? […] O, proper stuff! This is the very painting of your fear.This is the air-drawn dagger which you saidLed you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts,Impostors to true fear, would well becomeA woman's story at a winter's fire, Authorized by her grandam. Shame itself! Why do you make such faces? When all's done, You look but on a stool. " In other words, Lady Macbeth is (yet again) telling Macbeth that he's acting like a girl—or, in this case, an old women. Honestly, we're a little surprised that—since this is Shakespeare and all —he didn't just up and kill her instead of Duncan.
Scene 5 The witches again meet at an open place, this time with Hecate, the goddess of witches, who lays into the weird sisters in a lengthy, rhyming speech that sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme. She's super irritated that they were meddling in the affairs of Macbeth without consulting her first, as she could've done a better job. Also, she points out, Macbeth isn't devoted to them, but to his own ends. But, FINE, Hecate will clean up this mess. She tells them to all meet in the morning, when Macbeth will come to know his destiny, whatever that means. Then there's a catchy witch song and dance, and everyone exits after Hecate. FYI: Some literary critics believe that these scene is way too hokey to be Shakespeare's work, so it must have been added to the play some time between the time the play was first written (1606) and its publication in the first folio (1623), which was after Shakespeare's death (1616). A fellow playwright, Thomas Middleton, may have written the snazzy songs in this scene.
QUOTESHECATE "Have I not reason, beldams as you are?Saucy and overbold, how did you dare To trade and traffic with Macbeth In riddles and affairs of death,And I, the mistress of your charms, The close contriver of all harms,Was never call'd to bear my part,Or show the glory of our art? And which is worse, all you have doneHath been but for a wayward son,Spiteful and wrathful, who, as others do,Loves for his own ends, not for you. (3.5.2-13)" Even witches have to follow orders. In a way, the witches' disobedience seems like a parallel to the way Macbeth, "the wayward son," is insubordinate to King Duncan. The "supernatural" still has rules and hierarchy; what Macbeth is doing is unnatural, inverting the natural order of king and lord.
Scene 6 Meanwhile, elsewhere in Scotland: The nobleman Lennox discusses Scotland's plight with another lord. Isn't it weird that Duncan was murdered, that his run-away sons were blamed, that Banquo has now been murdered, that his run-away son (Fleance) is being blamed, and that everyone has a major case of déjà vu. Plus, the murders of Banquo and Duncan were too conveniently grieved by Macbeth, who had the most to gain from the deaths. They call Macbeth a "tyrant," and then note that Macduff has joined Malcolm in England. Malcolm and Macduff are doing a pretty good job of convincing the oh-so gracious and "pious" King Edward of England, along with some English noblemen, to help them in the fight against Macbeth, the tyrant. FYI: Shakespeare's giving England and King Edward the Confessor(1042-1066) some serious props here. The other noblemen pray that Malcolm and Macduff might be successful and restore some order to the kingdom, even though news of the planned rebellion has reached Macbeth and he's preparing for war. Sorry to say, it's not looking too good for Macbeth at this point.
QUOTESLORD " The son of Duncan"(From whom this tyrant holds the due of birth) (3.6.28-29) Can't a king get a break? Macbeth has just been crowned, and people are already calling him a tyrant. Sheesh. It's almost like he's taken power unlawfully, or something. LORD The son of Duncan "[…]Lives in the English court and is receivedOf the most pious Edward with such grace That the malevolence of fortune nothing Takes from his high respect. Thither MacduffIs gone to pray the holy king upon his aidTo wake Northumberland and warlike SiwardThat, by the help of these (with Him above To ratify the work), we may again Give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights, Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives, Do faithful homage and receive free honors.All which we pine for now: and this reportHath so exasperate the king that he Prepares for some attempt of war. (3.6.28-43)" It may be a Scottish play, but Shakespeare can't resist giving the English king, Edward the Confessor (c. 1003-1066) some props. Malcolm has fled to England, seeking help from the "pious Edward," who stands in contrast to the tyrant Macbeth and is going to play a major role in the restoration of political order in Scotland.