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Act 3 Scene 4 – Key Scene
In this scene, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth host a banquet for the Scottish thanes. A murderer tells Macbeth that he has been successful in killing Banquo, but that Fleance escaped. During the banquet, Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo sitting at his place at the table. He is horrified. Lady Macbeth reassures the guests that it is a momentary fit and tells Macbeth to stop. The ghost disappears and Macbeth is calm. However, moments later, the ghost appears again. Macbeth is so distressed that Lady Macbeth tells the thanes to leave. Macbeth decides to visit the witches the next day.
You can take a look at the scene here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re looking at the scene for the first time, don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.
Take a look at the scene. What stage directions are there in the text? Who speaks the most? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in black), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in green) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.
You, Banquo’s ghost, cannot accuse me of killing you.
What do you think Ross and the thanes think about Macbeth’s unexpected behaviour?
If you make a fuss of him, you will make things worse.
This question is directed at Macbeth. How public do you think this question is? How could you stage this question and the conversation that comes afterwards, without the thanes overhearing?
Ridiculous! This is all imaginary. This is exactly like when you had a vision of a dagger before you killed Duncan.
This feeling is completely unreal in comparison to real fears.
A fairy tale.
Macbeth is responding to the ghost’s movements. What do you think the ghost is doing? Can the audience see the ghost or is it all in his imagination?
If buried bodies rise, there will be no bones left in the graves - like in the stomach of a bird of prey.
Have you completely lost sense of who you are as a man, with your silliness?
- Listen Read the scene aloud. Are there any words or lines that really stand out? What do you think are the key moments in this scene? What does it reveal about Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as characters?
Play scene in performance
Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost in the 1952 production of Macbeth.
Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost in the 1946 production of Macbeth.
Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost in the 1955 production of Macbeth.
Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost in the 1938 production of Macbeth.
Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost in the 1996 production of Macbeth.
Greg Hicks as Macbeth and Louis Hilyer as Banquo's ghost in the 2004 production of Macbeth.
Macbeth and Banquo's ghost in the 2007 production of Macbeth.
Christopher Eccleston as Macbeth and Raphael Sowole as Banquo's ghost in the 2018 production of Macbeth.
Macbeth and Banquo's ghost in the 2011 production of Macbeth.
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Macbeth - Act 4, scene 1
Last updated: Fri, Jul 31, 2015
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Act 4, scene 1.
Macbeth approaches the witches to learn how to make his kingship secure. In response they summon for him three apparitions: an armed head, a bloody child, and finally a child crowned, with a tree in his hand. These apparitions instruct Macbeth to beware Macduff but reassure him that no man born of woman can harm him and that he will not be overthrown until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane. Macbeth is greatly reassured, but his confidence in the future is shaken when the witches show him a line of kings all in the image of Banquo. After the witches disappear, Macbeth discovers that Macduff has fled to England and decides to kill Macduff’s family immediately.
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Macbeth finds out that Banquo has been murdered, but that his son has escaped. As Macbeth heads back to eat at his banquet table, he finds his seat has been taken by none other than the ghost of Banquo. He freaks out at the sight, and Lady Macbeth dismisses it as a momentary fit. When Macbeth tells her he sees Banquo’s ghost in his seat, she quietly tells Macbeth to be a man and get over his anxiety. After screaming at the ghost, he gathers himself and makes excuses to his guests, shooing everyone away from the banquet table. Left alone with his wife, Macbeth tells her he’s terrified of the consequences of his evil deeds. He wants to meet with the witches again, to figure out what else lies in store. Nothing good, he thinks.
You all know your places, so please have a seat. From the highest rank to the lowest, I give you a hearty welcome.
Thanks to your majesty.
I will sit among you and act as the humble host. Our hostess will stay in her seat of honor, but when the time is right, she will welcome you also.
Sir, welcome all our friends for me; for they’re welcome in my heart.
Look, they respond to you with their heart’s thanks. The table is full on both sides, so I’ll sit here in the middle. Everyone have a great time, we’ll soon have a toast all around the table!
There's blood on your face.
Then it’s Banquo’s.
Better on the outside of you than on the inside of him. Is he finished off?
My lord, his throat is cut. I did that to him.
You’re the best of the cut-throats. But it would be great if someone did the same to Fleance. If it was either of you, you are without equal.
Most royal sir, Fleance has escaped.
Oh God, there comes my fear back again. If it wasn’t for this I’d be perfectly fine, solid as marble, grounded as rocks, as free and easy as the air around us. But now I’m cramped and confined and all boxed in by unruly fears. But Banquo’s dead for sure?
Yes, my good lord. He’s surely lying in a ditch with twenty deep gashes in his head. The least of those would have killed him.
Thanks for that, at least the grown serpent lies dead. The young snake that ran away will eventually have poison, but right now he has no teeth. Get out of here. Tomorrow we’ll talk again.
My royal lord, you haven’t given a toast. If you don’t make them feel welcome during the feast, the guests will feel like they’re paying for feasting here. If all they’re doing is eating they might as well be at home. Company is the special sauce that makes feasts worthwhile. Dining together would be bland without company.
Sweet of you to remind me! Now, let’s drink to good digestion, and good appetite that precedes it... and to good health, which comes from both!
Please have a seat, your highness!
We would have every nobleman in the country under our roof, if only gracious Banquo had come. I hope I can accuse him of rudeness for being late, rather than pity him for some accident.
I think you can blame his absence on him, sir, since he promised to be here. He promised to come. Your highness, please sit and grace us with your royal company.
The table's full.
Here is a place for you, sir.
Here, my good lord. What’s disturbing your highness?
Which of you has done this?
What, my good lord?
You can’t say I did it. Don’t shake your bloody hair at me.
Gentlemen, let’s get up. His highness is not feeling well.
Please sit, my worthy friends.
My husband is often like this and he’s been this way since he was young. Please, stay seated. It’s a momentary fit, he’ll be fine in a second. If you pay attention to it, you’ll make it worse and it will last longer. Just eat, and ignore him. [To Macbeth] Are you a man?
Yes, in fact, a brave one, since I dare to look at a thing that would scare the Devil.
Oh what nonsense! This is your fear making you see things. This is like the dagger in the air which you said led you to Duncan. These outbursts of yours aren’t fears of real things, more like old wive’s tales. Shame on you! Why are you making faces like that? You’re just looking at an empty chair when all’s said and done
Has your madness made you no longer a man?
As sure as I’m standing here, I saw him.
Oh, for shame!
In the old days, back before laws made us civilized, blood was often shed. Since then too, murders too terrible to describe have been committed. It used to be that once a man’s brains were dashed out, he was dead, and that was the end. But now the dead rise again, even with twenty fatal gashes in their heads, and push us off our chairs! This is much stranger than any murder.
My worthy lord, your noble friends miss you.
I forget. Don’t worry yourselves about me, worthy friends, I have a strange illness, which is not a big deal to those who know me well. Come, let’s drink to love and health for all! Then I’ll sit down. Give me some wine and fill my glass full. I drink to the general happiness of the whole table, and to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss. I wish he were here! To everyone! And to Banquo! Drink, everyone!
To our duty, and your toast!
Go away, get out of my sight! Get back into the ground! Your bones have no marrow, your blood is cold. There’s no vision in those eyes glaring at me!
Fellow nobles, think of this as something ordinary, nothing more, although it does rather ruin the evening.
I’ll do whatever any man is brave enough to do. Come at me like a Russian bear, or an armored rhinoceros, or an Asian tiger. Take on any shape but that one, and my nerves will never budge! Or just be alive again, and challenge me to get what I deserve from your sword.
If I’m trembling in fear, then call me a little girl. Get away, horrible ghost! You mockery of reality, get out of here!
Why, now that he’s gone, I’m a man again. Please, everyone, stay here.
Can things like this happen and no one act surprised? It overshadowed this party like a cloud in summer. You make me feel like I’m not my normal self, now that I realize you can see things like that and keep your composure while I go pale with fear.
What things, my lord?
Please don’t talk to him. He’s getting worse and worse. All these questions are just making him angry. Good night to everyone, right now. No need to leave according to your social rank - just go quickly.
Good night, and I hope his majesty is in better health soon!
A kind good night to all of you!
“Blood will have blood”, as they say. Blood will have blood. They say rocks have been known to move and trees have spoken. Man’s bloodiest secrets have been shown by omens in magpies and crows. What time is it?
It’s right at the divide between night and morning.
What do you think of Macduff not coming as requested?
Did you send for him, sir?
I heard about this from others, but I will send for him. I have servants paid to spy in every one of their houses. Tomorrow - and early - I’ll go to the witches. They must tell me more, I’m determined to know the worst by their evil means. For my own good, everything else has to give way. I’m so deep in this bloodshed that if I stopped this business now, going back would be as difficult as continuing all the way. I have strange things in my head that must be done, and they should be done before I think them through.
You really need some sleep.
Come, let’s go to bed. This strange behavior comes from beginner’s fears that will fade in time. We’re still quite inexperienced in murder.
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Macbeth Shakescleare Translation
Macbeth Translation Act 3, Scene 4
A banquet. MACBETH enters with LADY MACBETH, ROSS, LENNOX, LORDS, and their attendants.
A banquet. MACBETH, LADY MACBETH, ROSS, LENNOX, LORDS, and their attendants enter.
You know your own degrees; sit down. At first And last, the hearty welcome.
You know your own ranks, so you know where to sit according to your order of importance. To both the highest and lowest of you, I bid you a hearty welcome.
The LORDS sit.
Thanks to your majesty.
Thank you, your Majesty.
Ourself will mingle with society And play the humble host. Our hostess keeps her state, but in best time We will require her welcome.
I will mingle with all of you, playing the humble host. My wife, the hostess, will stay on her royal throne, but in good time I will ask her to welcome you all.
Everything you need for every book you read.
Pronounce it for me, sir, to all our friends, For my heart speaks they are welcome.
Sir, deliver my welcome to all of our friends for me, since they are all welcome in my heart.
The lords cheer. The FIRST MURDERER appears and catches Macbeth’s attention.
The LORDS cheer. The FIRST MURDERER appears and catches MACBETH's attention.
See, they encounter thee with their hearts’ thanks. Both sides are even. Here I’ll sit i’ th’ midst. Be large in mirth. Anon we’ll drink a measure The table round. [aside to FIRST MURDERER] There’s blood upon thy face.
See, they respond to you with their hearts as well. The table is full on both sides. I’ll sit here in the middle. Be happy. Soon we’ll have a toast to the full table.
[To the FIRST MURDERER so that only he can hear] There’s blood on your face.
‘Tis Banquo’s then.
It’s Banquo’s blood then.
‘Tis better thee without than he within. Is he dispatched?
It’s better that you have his blood on your face than Banquo having his lifeblood still coursing in his veins. Is he dead?
My lord, his throat is cut. That I did for him.
My lord, his throat is cut. I did that for him.
Thou art the best o’ th’ cutthroats: Yet he’s good that did the like for Fleance. If thou didst it, thou art the nonpareil.
You are the best of the cutthroats. But whoever did the same to Fleance is just as good. If you cut Fleance’s throat, then you are a cutthroat without compare.
Most royal sir, Fleance is ’scaped.
Most royal sir, Fleance has escaped.
Then comes my fit again. I had else been perfect, Whole as the marble, founded as the rock, As broad and general as the casing air. But now I am cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in To saucy doubts and fears.—But Banquo’s safe?
Now my torment returns. Otherwise, I would have been perfect: solid as a piece of marble, as firm as a rock, as free as the air which surrounds everything. But now I’m all confined and bound in doubts and fears. But Banquo’s been killed?
Ay, my good lord. Safe in a ditch he bides, With twenty trenchèd gashes on his head, The least a death to nature.
Yes, my good lord. He’s lying in a ditch, with twenty deep gashes in his head—the least of which would have been enough to kill him.
Thanks for that. There the grown serpent lies. The worm that’s fled Hath nature that in time will venom breed; No teeth for th’ present. Get thee gone. Tomorrow We’ll hear ourselves again.
Thanks for that. The adult serpent lies in the ditch. The young worm that escaped will in time become poisonous. But right now he has no fangs. Be gone now. I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.
The FIRST MURDERER exits.
My royal lord, You do not give the cheer. The feast is sold That is not often vouched, while ’tis a-making, ‘Tis given with welcome. To feed were best at home; From thence, the sauce to meat is ceremony; Meeting were bare without it.
My royal lord, you’re not entertaining the guests. If you do not regularly make clear that your guests are welcome, they’ll start to feel as if they’re paying for their meal. If you simply want to eat, it’s best to do that at home. When you’re eating out, you need some ceremony to act as an extra sauce for the meat. Without it, the party will be dull.
Sweet remembrancer! Now, good digestion wait on appetite, And health on both!
Thank you for reminding me! [Raising a glass] Good digestion requires a good appetite, and good health requires both those things. To good appetite, good digestion, and good health!
May ’t please your highness sit.
Please sit, your Highness.
The GHOST OF BANQUO enters and sits in MACBETH’s place.
Here had we now our country’s honor roofed, Were the graced person of our Banquo present, Who may I rather challenge for unkindness Than pity for mischance.
All the nobility of Scotland would be gathered under one roof, if only the noble Banquo were also here. I hope I can scold him for rudeness, and not have to grieve because something has happened to him.
His absence, sir, Lays blame upon his promise. Please ’t your highness To grace us with your royal company?
His absence means only that he’s broken his promise to attend. If it pleases you, your Highness, won’t you sit and grace us with your royal company?
The table’s full.
Here is a place reserved, sir.
Here’s a place saved for you, sir.
Here, my good lord. What is ’t that moves your highness?
[Pointing to where the GHOST sits] Here, my good lord. What’s bothering you, your highness?
Which of you have done this?
[Seeing the GHOST] Which one of you did this?
What, my good lord?
Did what, my good lord?
[to GHOST] Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake Thy gory locks at me.
[To the GHOST] You can’t say I did it. Don’t shake your bloody head at me.
Gentlemen, rise. His highness is not well.
Gentlemen, stand up. His Highness is not well.
Sit, worthy friends. My lord is often thus And hath been from his youth. Pray you, keep seat. The fit is momentary; upon a thought He will again be well. If much you note him, You shall offend him and extend his passion. Feed and regard him not. [aside to MACBETH] Are you a man?
Sit, noble friends. My husband is often like this, and has been since childhood . Please, stay seated. This is a momentary fit. He’ll be well again in just a second. If you pay too much attention to him you’ll offend him, which will prolong the fit. Eat, and pay no attention to him.
[To MACBETH] Are you a man?
Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that Which might appall the devil.
Yes, and a brave one, who dares look at something that would frighten the devil.
O proper stuff! This is the very painting of your fear. This is the air-drawn dagger which you said Led you to Duncan. Oh, 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.
Oh, utter nonsense! This is a hallucination brought on by fear. This is like the floating dagger that you said led you to Duncan. This panic attack can’t even be compared to real fear. It's more like a performance put on by a woman telling a scary story by the fireside in front of her grandmother. Shame on you! Why are you making such faces? When the hallucination passes, you’ll see that you’re looking at nothing but a stool.
Prithee, see there! Behold! Look! Lo! How say you? Why, what care I? If thou canst nod, speak too. If charnel houses and our graves must send Those that we bury back, our monuments Shall be the maws of kites.
Please, look there. See? Look!
[To the GHOST] Hey! What do you have to say? And what do I care? If you can nod, then speak. If the dead are going to return from their graves, then we might as well not bury anyone and let the birds eat them.
The GHOST vanishes.
What, quite unmanned in folly?
What, has your foolishness destroyed your manhood?
If I stand here, I saw him.
As sure as I’m standing here, I saw him.
Fie, for shame!
Nonsense! Shame on you!
Blood hath been shed ere now, i’ th’ olden time, Ere humane statute purged the gentle weal; Ay, and since too, murders have been performed Too terrible for the ear. The time has been That, when the brains were out, the man would die, And there an end. But now they rise again With twenty mortal murders on their crowns And push us from our stools. This is more strange Than such a murder is.
In ancient times—before humane laws cleansed the commonwealth and made it noble—much blood was shed. Yes, and since then too, murders have been committed that are too terrible to mention. It used to be that when you knocked a man’s brains out he would die, and that was the end of it. But now they rise again with twenty fatal wounds on their head and push us from our stools. This returning from the dead is more strange than the original murder.
My worthy lord, Your noble friends do lack you.
My dear lord, your noble friends miss your company.
I do forget. Do not muse at me, my most worthy friends. I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing To those that know me. Come, love and health to all. Then I’ll sit down. Give me some wine. Fill full.
[To the lords] Don’t be shocked at my behavior, my most noble friends. I have a strange condition, which no longer bothers those who know me well. [Raising his glass again] Come: love and health to you all. Now I’ll sit down. Give me some wine. Fill my cup.
The GHOST OF BANQUO enters.
I drink to the general joy o’ th’ whole table, And to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss; Would he were here! To all and him we thirst, And all to all.
I drink to the joy of all of you at the table, and to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss. I wish he were here! To everyone here and to Banquo. Everyone drink to everyone else's health.
Our duties, and the pledge.
We drink to our allegiance to you, and to your toast.
[seeing the GHOST] Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee. Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold. Thou hast no speculation in those eyes Which thou dost glare with!
[Seeing the GHOST] Go! Get out of my sight! Hide in your grave. Your bones have no marrow, and your blood is cold. The eyes with which you’re glaring at me have no power of sight!
Think of this, good peers, But as a thing of custom. ‘Tis no other; Only it spoils the pleasure of the time.
Think of this, good friends, as just a strange habit. It’s nothing else. Too bad it’s spoiling our evening!
What man dare, I dare. Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear, The armed rhinoceros, or th’ Hyrcan tiger; Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves Shall never tremble. Or be alive again, And dare me to the desert with thy sword. If trembling I inhabit then, protest me The baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence!
I dare as much as any man. Approach me in the form of a rugged Russian bear, an armor-plated rhinoceros, or a Hyrcan tiger. Take any shape but the one you have, and I won’t tremble. Or return to life and challenge me to a duel in some deserted place. If I tremble then, mock me as a little girl's doll. Be gone, horrible ghost! You hallucination, be gone!
Why so, being gone, I am a man again. Pray you sit still.
See, now that it's gone, I’m a man again. Please, remain seated.
You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting, With most admired disorder.
You have disrupted our dinner and destroyed everyone’s good cheer with your astonishing behavior.
Can such things be, And overcome us like a summer’s cloud, Without our special wonder? You make me strange Even to the disposition that I owe, When now I think you can behold such sights, And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks, When mine is blanched with fear.
[To the guests] Can such things exist—and overcome a person as suddenly as a summer storm—without making everyone astonished? You make me feel like I don’t know my own character and courage, when I see you looking at these terrible things without going pale with fear, while my own face has gone white.
What sights, my lord?
I pray you, speak not. He grows worse and worse. Question enrages him. At once, good night. Stand not upon the order of your going, But go at once.
[To the guests] Please, don’t speak with him. He’s growing worse and worse. Talking only exacerbates it. Right now, good night. Don’t worry about leaving in a certain order according to your rank. Just leave right away.
Good night, and better health Attend his majesty!
Good night. I hope better health returns to his Majesty!
A kind good night to all!
A kind good night to all of you!
Everyone leaves except MACBETH and LADY MACBETH.
Everyone except MACBETH and LADY MACBETH exits.
It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood. Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak. Augurs and understood relations have By magot pies and choughs and rooks brought forth The secret’st man of blood. —What is the night?
Blood will lead to blood, as the saying goes. Gravestones have been known to move, trees to speak, and the jackdaws, crows, and rooks to cackle out the names of even the most secret murderers.
[To LADY MACBETH] How late is it?
Almost at odds with morning, which is which.
It's almost morning. You can’t tell whether it’s one or the other.
How say’st thou that Macduff denies his person At our great bidding?
What do you think about the fact that Macduff does refuses to come even should I command him to?
Did you send to him, sir?
Did you officially send for him, sir?
I hear it by the way; but I will send. There’s not a one of them but in his house I keep a servant fee’d. I will tomorrow— And betimes I will—to the weird sisters. More shall they speak, for now I am bent to know, By the worst means, the worst. 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. Strange things I have in head, that will to hand, Which must be acted ere they may be scanned.
I heard about it indirectly, but I will send for him. I have a servant paid to spy for me in every one of my lords’ households. I will go see the witches tomorrow, early. They will tell me more, because I’m now determined to know the worst of what is to come. My own interests are more important than anything else. I have waded so far into this river of blood that even if I stopped now, it would be as unpleasant to go back as to continue forward. I have some plans in my head that I must act upon before I have a chance to think carefully about them.
You lack the season of all natures, sleep.
You lack the rest and ease that sleep provides.
Come, we’ll to sleep. My strange and self-abuse Is the initiate fear that wants hard use. We are yet but young in deed.
Yes, let’s go to sleep. My strange self-delusions just come from inexperience. We’re still beginners when it comes to bad deeds.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth - Banquo
Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare that tells the story of a Scottish nobleman called Macbeth.
At the start of the play, Banquo is Macbeth’s friend and is also a general in King Duncan’s army.
Banquo suspects that the Witches may be tricking Macbeth and he is the first to suspect Macbeth of murder.
The Witches have predicted that Banquo’s descendants will become kings. Macbeth starts to feel threatened and pays assassins to murder him and his son.
Banquo dies while protecting his son, Fleance, and comes back as a ghost to haunt Macbeth.
Did you know?
James I was the king of England and Scotland when the play Macbeth was first performed. He believed that he was a descendant close descendant A person who is directly related to someone from a previous generation. For example, a child is a descendant of their parents. of Banquo.
It has been suggested that Shakespeare presented the character of Banquo in a positive way to please the king.
Banquo’s key moments
Click through the slideshow to see Banquo’s key moments
Macbeth and Banquo meet the Witches
The play begins with Macbeth and Banquo as friends, returning from fighting together for King Duncan. On their journey home they meet three witches, who share their predictions. Banquo is suspicious of the Witches.
Banquo becomes suspicious of Macbeth
Following the murder of King Duncan, Banquo grows suspicious of his friend.
Macbeth has his friend, Banquo, murdered
Threatened by the Witches’ predictions that Banquo’s descendants will become kings, Macbeth orders assassins to murder both Banquo and his son, Fleance. Banquo dies protecting Fleance, who manages to escape. Banquo’s ghost haunts and frightens Macbeth.
Suspicious He suspects Macbeth might have murdered Duncan to become king himself and stops trusting his old friend.
Loyal Macbeth knows that Banquo is loyal to King Duncan. He does not involve him in his plot to murder the king.
Sceptical Banquo doesn’t trust the Witches’ predictions. He warns Macbeth that evil creatures sometimes tell only half the truth to tempt people. In contrast close contrast Comparing two or more things to show difference. to Macbeth, Banquo is not tempted to commit an evil act, even though the Witches promised his sons would become kings.
In Shakespeare’s time, many people believed that witches were real.
King James I was fascinated by witchcraft and wrote a book on the topic, which is said to have inspired Shakespeare when he was writing Macbeth .
Banquo and Macbeth start as friends and fellow warriors, but the Witches’ predictions cause tension in their relationship.
After the murder of King Duncan, Banquo becomes suspicious of Macbeth. Banquo knows that the Witches’ predictions have given Macbeth a motive for murdering King Duncan.
Macbeth orders assassins close assassin Someone who murders someone else, often for political reasons. Sometimes an assassin is hired to kill someone on behalf of another person. to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance, but Fleance escapes.
When Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost, he is terrified. The ghost is a reminder of the crime he has committed.
In many ways Banquo is the opposite of Macbeth. He is caring, loyal and trustworthy.
What does Banquo’s murder tell us about Macbeth?
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Macbeth is obsessed with the idea that Banquo’s son, Fleance, will take over from him as king. Even though Banquo is his best friend, he pays people to murder him and his son, although Fleance escapes.
This shows the audience how much Macbeth has changed and how violent he has become.
The relationship between Banquo and his son show us that Banquo is a caring, loyal character. When they are attacked his first thought is to keep his son safe and he tells his son to run away. Banquo’s son Fleance manages to escape.
Macbeth has no children. This causes more tension when Banquo is told his descendants close descendant A person who is directly related to someone from a previous generation. For example, a child is a descendant of their parents. will become kings.
Staging a play
What does staging a play mean?
Staging a play is how the play is presented to the audience. The director is in charge of the staging of the play, which can include lighting, set design, costumes as well as how the actors play their roles.
Watch this short video about how to stage Banquo’s ghost and then answer the following question.
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Video transcript video transcript.
Presenter: Hello, and welcome to The Big Scene. We’re at rehearsals for Macbeth , and scenes don’t get much bigger than this. It’s the clash with Banquo’s ghost and the director really needs the audience to appreciate Macbeth’s horror at seeing the ghost of his old best friend who he’s had murdered. This is a big challenge! Can she pull it off on this team’s budget?
And as you join us, the feast is well under way and Banquo’s ghost is about to enter.
Banquo’s ghost: Woo! Woo!
Presenter: Oh, and what a silly boy. The director’s not happy at all. She wanted a ghost, she’s got a tablecloth with eyes. Clearly no one told the young lad the audience needs to take the supernatural seriously. Ah. But this looks more promising. Oh, and he’s really pulled his socks up here and has put in one hell of a performance. He almost looks real. Could make Macbeth and the audience question if Banquo’s been killed at all!
Macbeth: Which of you has done this?
Presenter: And that is back-from-the-dead-tastic. 110 percent from Billy Banquo and it’s more than enough to scare the paranoid pants out of the out of form Macbeth – and us, for that matter. I’ve got the heebie-jeebies.
Banquo’s ghost: Erm, don’t have any lines.
Presenter: Hey, hey, hey. The guy’s right, and he’s got the boss really thinking. Has she got a more stylised approach in mind,perhaps?
Presenter: Well, well, well, Banquo’s been replaced by nothing more than lighting and sound effects.
Banquo’s ghost: Ridiculous.
Presenter: It’s utter madness, if you ask me. Macbeth’s madness, that is. It’s a classy move by the director. It puts a doubt or two in the mind of the young king and it makes the audience really question his sanity. Hang on, it looks like she might have another trick up her sleeve. Can she up the tempo once more, I wonder?
Macbeth: Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake thy gory locks at me.
Presenter: Well, no one saw that coming. She’s decided she doesn’t need an actual ghost in that position at all. She’s made the audience think Macbeth’s totally lost his marbles. Oh, but what’s this?
Oh, some numpty’s waltzed through with Banquo’s goat, of all things. No audience would want to see that. A rehearsal of two halves and no mistake.
Who can see the ghost?
Only Macbeth can see the ghost of Banquo. This suggests that the ghost might be haunting Macbeth alone, as revenge for the murder Macbeth ordered. Or it could possibly be that the ghost is not real and has been imagined by Macbeth due to his feelings of guilt. Macbeth is terrified and shouts at the ghost, which remains silent.
Changes in character
Banquo is a loyal friend to Macbeth. He begins to become suspicious of his friend after the meeting with the Witches and the death of Duncan, however, he keeps his suspicions to himself.
After his murder, Banquo’s ghost haunts Macbeth. The ghost appears at the banquet close banquet A large, formal meal for lots of people. and sits in Macbeth’s seat. Only Macbeth can see the ghost, so it is possible the ghost is not real and has been imagined by Macbeth.
Although Banquo is an ambitious thane close Thane A title of nobility in Scotland. , he is unwilling to commit murder to achieve power. This shows that he is more loyal than Macbeth. Although Macbeth achieves power for a short while, Banquo’s descendants close descendant A person who is directly related to someone from a previous generation. For example, a child is a descendant of their parents. later become kings of Scotland.
Activity - Order it
What do these key quotations mean.
… to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths; – Banquo,
Banquo realises that the Witches could wish to harm him and Macbeth. Even if they are telling the truth, they could still be evil. He is more cautious than Macbeth and does not trust the Witches.
May they not be my oracles as well, And set me up in hope?
Banquo is dismissive of the Witches at first, but when he sees the predictions coming true for Macbeth, he begins to wonder what fate might have in store for him.
Banquo is noble and loyal to King Duncan and, unlike Macbeth, does not contemplate acting on the Witches’ predictions. In Act 3, scene 1, however, he does seem to have ambitious thoughts. However, he dismisses these thoughts from his mind, showing that he is less open to temptation than Macbeth. Little does he know, the Witches’ half-truths typically miss out the important information: that he will not live to see his children become kings.
O, treachery close treachery When someone who you trust betrays you. ! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly! Thou may’st revenge.
Just before he is murdered, Banquo urges his son to escape. He asks him to avenge his death. Because Fleance has escaped, the audience knows that the Witches’ prediction, that Banquo’s sons will become kings, could come true.
Why has Shakespeare made Banquo a good man?
Banquo’s decent, loyal character gives the audience a contrast close contrast Comparing two or more things to show difference. to Macbeth. At the start of the play, the two men have many characteristics in common. The friends are also together when they hear the Witches’ predictions.
Macbeth trusts the Witches and the audience sees a darker side to his character. In contrast, Banquo does not trust the Witches and is not tempted to commit evil acts:
…to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths; – Banquo,
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More on Macbeth
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Shakespeare’s Macbeth - Macduff
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Shakespeare’s Macbeth plot summary
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Themes in Shakespeare’s Macbeth
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Shakespeare’s Macbeth - Macbeth
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Banquo is a character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth , and the ghost of Banquo is one of the most famous ghosts in English literature.
Banquo is Macbeth’s friend and fellow military commander. At the beginning of Macbeth we see them together, fighting and defeating the rebels against the king, Duncan.
Word of their victory reaches the camp where Duncan is waiting with his two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain. Macbeth and Banquo are his top officers and he is waiting to receive and honour them for their loyalty and their success in battle.
Paddy Considine as Banquo
On their way to Duncan’s camp the two men are stopped by three witches who show that they know who the two are. They predict that Macbeth will soon become Thane of Cawdor and, subsequently, king. They ignore Banquo but he asks them what they have to say to him.
They turn to him and tell him that he will not be king but will be the father of a long line of kings. The two men laugh about it but the idea stays with Macbeth and he is struck with a thought that he can’t bear to allow – that to become king he would have to kill Duncan.
Macbeth dismisses the thought but it becomes difficult when he is met by two messengers from the king, telling him that the king has awarded him the lands and title of the recently executed traitor, the Thane of Cawdor.
Macbeth writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth , and tells her about the encounters. That puts the same idea into her mind, that the king will have to be killed, and she quickly decides that she will work on it.
The king greets his two captains and tells Macbeth that he will be coming to spend the night at his castle at Inverness before going hunting the next day. When a messenger arrives at the castle and tells Lady Macbeth that the king is coming she knows that she will have to persuade her husband to act.
Macbeth returns to his castle and Banquo and his son, Fleace – a child – go with him. Lady Macbeth puts great pressure on Macbeth to murder Duncan. At first, he resists but she prevails and he agrees to stab Duncan in his sleep.
After the murder Macbeth is proclaimed king. He and his old friend chat and Macbeth tells Banquo that he had better make sure that he attends the state banquet he and the queen are holding to honour their ascent to the throne. Banquo suspects Macbeth of having murdered the king but expresses his loyalty. He tells Macbeth that he has to go away on business and will do his best to get back in time. He also tells him that Fleance, will be accompanying him.
By this time Macbeth is already sleepless as a result of the guilt he is experiencing. He is already paranoid and is about to embark on a reign of terror, murdering his rivals and opponents. Banquo is to be the first of these.
Macbeth hires some murderers and tells them to attack Banquo on the way back and to make sure that he kills his only son, Fleance, as well.
During the banquet one of the murderers arrives and Macbeth is called out of the hall. The murderer tells him that he has killed Banquo but that Fleance has escaped. That throws Macbeth into a state of panic.
But he pulls himself together and returns to the table and begins to make a welcome speech. He says that he wishes that Banquo could be there. There is a figure sitting at a table in Banquo’s place and when he turns to look at the king Macbeth sees the blood-drenched face of Banquo.
He starts yelling and cowering away from the ghost. Lady Macbeth calms him down. He apologises and returns to his speech. When he mentions Banquo again the ghost appears once more and this time Macbeth goes mad. Lady Macbeth dismisses the guests, telling them to leave as fast as they can.
Macbeth becomes increasingly bloodthirsty and Shakespeare gives us the onstage spectacle of one of the murderers killing a young child – a son of Macduff, the man who eventually defeats and kills Macbeth .
We see Banquo once more. Macbeth returns to the witches to ask them to predict the future. Their predictions come in riddles but the last prediction is an image of Banquo wearing a crown and leading an endless parade of his descendants.
Banquo is hardly a character in Macbeth . He has a function rather than a dramatic role in the play. It is his function to be the first victim in Macbeth’s reign of terror and his ghost’s is to pile on to the guilt that is already beginning to unsettle Macbeth.
He has the further function of appearing as an image in the witches’ prediction of what is going to happen as a result of Macbeth’s regicide. It is a dumb show, demonstrating that one of his descendents is going to ascend the throne of Scotland and that the dynasty is going to endure for a very long period of time.
And so, Banquo is important for other reasons than functioning as a dramatic character: Shakespeare hasn’t realized him as a character. All we can say about him is that he is a loyal supporter of Macbeth.
Although he strongly suspects Macbeth of the crime he does not show any resistance in the way most of the other characters do. He also does not actively support Macbeth in the sense of helping him against his opponents. Moreover, he does not live long enough to play any part in the great drama that follows the murder of Duncan.
However, his dying words “oh slave!” are a condemnation of Macbeth as he realizes in his last moments that he has been betrayed by his friend. As he dies he calls instructions to his son, running away from the murderers, to avenge his murder.
Top Banquo Quotes
That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ Earth And yet are on ‘t?—Live you? Or are you aught That man may question? You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so. ( act 1, scene 3 )
If you can look into the seeds of time, And say which grain will grow and which will not, Speak, then, to me, who neither beg nor fear Your favours nor your hate. ( act 1, scene 3 )
Were such things here as we do speak about? Or have we eaten on the insane root That takes the reason prisoner? ( act 1, scene 3 )
That, trusted home, Might yet enkindle you unto the crown, besides the thane of Cawdor. ( act 1, scene 3 )
Thou has it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all. As the weird women promised, and I fear. thou played’st most foully for ‘t. ( act 3, scene 1 )
O treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly! Thou may’st revenge – O slave! ( act 3, scene 3 )
See All Macbeth Resources
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Notes on Ghost of Banquo in Macbeth by Shakespeare
Back to: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Banquo, a general in King Duncan’s army and a friend of Macbeth serve as a contrasting character to Macbeth. In the play, he is introduced to us in the same scene alongside Macbeth and he also sees and receives a prophecy from the three witches at the same time.
But the effect on both of them is dramatically different. Macbeth’s evil is sharply demarked in comparison to the clear conscience of Banquo.
He warns Macbeth after listening to the prophecies by the three witches that “ oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us. ”
He revolts against the possibility of any such things even in his thoughts. Knowing that his coming generation will be comprised of kings doesn’t spring him into action the way it does in Macbeth.
Banquo is a righteous father and asks for no aid to any hint of ambition which curiously comes to him after listening to the prophecy. He says to the witches that he “ neither beg nor fear your favours nor your hate. ”
We eventually sympathise with him because of the way he dies without any foreknowledge of his own death while coming to attend the banquet organised by his own murderer.
There is a suggestion in the play to his knowledge regarding misdeeds done by Macbeth when in the Act III Scene 1 he says to Macbeth that “ Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, As the weird women promised, and, I fear, Thou play’dst most foully for’t. ”
Significance of Banquo’s Ghost
In an archetypal way, after Banquo’s cold murder, his spirit seems to have transcended his mortal death. At the table, it’s only Macbeth who is able to see him. This dramatic situation reveals the paranoia running under the maintained grandeur of Macbeth.
When Macbeth comes across the witches later alone, to mislead him they show him certain apparitions and a vision of Banquo walking with a mirror next to eight other descendants.
The play is supposedly believed to be performed under the watch of King James to whom Shakespeare’s allegiance was true. King James was in the ninth generation of descendants of Banquo, the historical character hence those eight descendants in the first vision of Macbeth regarding Banquo’s Ghost
Banquo’s Ghost at the banquet table is a subversive attack on the composure of Macbeth. It disarms him of what he manages himself to be and aims at his vulnerability otherwise saved by Lady Macbeth .
It marks the solid return of Macbeth’s conscience, the beginning of his critical suffering for the evil deeds done by him. In a symbolic way, Shakespeare positions him in the very seat of Macbeth which is Macbeth’s greatest fear.
It dismantles his hardly maintained sanity. When Ghost exits finally, Macbeth cries “ why, so. Being gone, I am a man again. ” In the play, Banquo’s Ghost marks a critical juncture.
The time which Macbeth is supposed to celebrate ironically marks his descend towards his final disintegration and defeat. Banquo’s Ghost reminds Macbeth of everything which he possibly wants to avoid from the bloody past and a future which he fearfully imagines.