Act III. Scene I. - Forres. A Room in the Palace.
Macbeth: "Our fears in Banquo / Stick deep, and in
his royalty of nature / Reigns that which would be fear'd:
'tis much he dares
Whose being I do fear; and under
him / My genius is rebuk'd, as it is said / Mark Antony's
was by Caesar."
Banquo is fearful that the Three Witches' prophecies
are coming true, questioning whether Macbeth played
most foully for it, or killed King Duncan to make prophecy,
fact. Meeting with Macbeth, Macbeth continuously asks
Banquo of his travel plans and those of his son. Alone,
Macbeth fears that Banquo's sons will mean his
dynasty will be short-lived; only he will be King and
not his sons who will be replaced by those of Banquo's
lineage. Macbeth arranges for several murderers to discreetly
kill Banquo and Fleance to ensure his sons and not Banquo's
become future kings...
The scene begins with Banquo, alone, suspicious of
Macbeth and the Three Witches' prophecy:
"Thou [you, Macbeth] hast [has] it now: King, Cawdor,
Glamis, all, / As the weird women promis'd; and, I fear,
/ Thou [Macbeth] play'dst [played] most foully for't
[for it];" (Line 1).
Banquo wonders about the prophecies made to him: "But
that myself should be the root and father / Of many
May they not be my oracles as well, / And
set me up in hope? But, hush! no more" (Lines 5-10).
Macbeth invites Banquo to a feast at his castle and
obliquely (indirectly) asks his plans for the evening.
"Ride you this afternoon?" (Line 19) Macbeth ominously
asks. Macbeth tells us that "our bloody cousins are
bestow'd / In England and Ireland, not confessing /
Their cruel parricide [murdering a father, King Duncan],"
(Line 30). This is a reference to King Duncan's two
sons being in hiding.
Macbeth asks again of Banquo's travel plans, specifically
for his son: "Goes Fleance with you?" (Line 35). Macbeth
is now alone with an Attendant. He asks of some men.
We learn they are presently waiting outside the palace
gate. "Bring them before us" Macbeth commands. (Line
Macbeth now alone, reveals his innermost thoughts in
another aside: "Our fears in Banquo / Stick deep, and
in his royalty of nature / Reigns that which would be
fear'd: 'tis much he dares... Whose being I do fear;
and under him / My genius is rebuk'd, as it is said
/ Mark Antony's was by Caesar" (Lines 49-55).
Macbeth goes on to remark that the Three Witches have
"plac'd a fruitless crown, / And put a barren sceptre"
(Line 61) in Macbeth's possession. Without a line of
kings following Macbeth's line, he fears that being
King of Scotland is a farce and in Banquo, Macbeth sees
the person stopping his own lineage of kings.
Macbeth is interrupted by the murderers whom he instructs
to kill Banquo and son Fleance. He explains to them
that their problems are the result of Banquo. Taunting
them, he asks them if they are happy to let the source
of their pain off so easily. They reply that they are
"men," (Line 91).
Macbeth tells the men to do their deed covertly (secretly)
to protect Macbeth's reputation. The scene ends with
Macbeth resolute of his next murder: "It is concluded
[decided]: Banquo, thy [your] soul's flight, If it find
heaven, must find it out to-night" (Banquo, you will
die tonight to find out if your soul will go to heaven
or not tonight), (Line 141).
Act III. Scene II. - The Same. Another Room
in the Palace.
Lady Macbeth and Macbeth speak in private. Macbeth
is again plagued by a guilt we thought may have vanished:
"We have scotch'd the snake, not kill'd it..."
(Line 13). Lady Macbeth attempts to strengthen Macbeth's
Act III. Scene III. -The Same. A Park, with
a Road leading to the Palace.
The Three Murderers kill Banquo but his son Fleance
escapes and survives. The Three Witches' prophecy
of Banquo's sons becoming kings has not been thwarted
The Third Murderer joins the previous two we know of.
When asked who sent him, the Third replies "Macbeth"
(Line 2). The Second tells the Third not to distrust
Macbeth, he delivers and can be trusted. The Third hears
The Third Murderer adds Banquo's horses have stopped
some way from the castle; it is common practice to walk
to the castle itself. Banquo and Fleance approach the
murderers by torch.
The Three Murderers set upon Banquo. Banquo cries "O,
treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly! " (O, treachery!
Run Fleance, run, run, run!), (Line 17). Banquo dies,
Fleance escapes. The Three Murderers notice this and
decide to report "how much is done" (Line 21).
Act III. Scene IV. - The Same. A Room of State
in the Palace.
"I am in blood / Stepp'd in so far, that, should
I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
Macbeth and a lady are entertaining at their castle.
The First Murderer arrives, announcing that Banquo is
dead but Fleance has lived. Macbeth immediately realizes
the consequences of this (his descendants may not become
kings). Macbeth sees Banquo's Ghost at his party,
causing Lady Macbeth to finish their party early to
prevent further suspicions about Macbeth's sanity
and about their role in recent events (King Duncan's
death whilst a guest at their castle). Macbeth makes
his famous quote about being too covered in blood to
A banquet is prepared attended by Macbeth, his lady,
Ross, Lennox, Lords and some Attendants. Macbeth intends
to play host: "Ourself will mingle with society / And
play the humble host " (Line 4). Lady Macbeth echoes
this sentiment: "Pronounce it for me, sir, to all our
friends; / For my heart speaks they are welcome" (Line
The First Murderer enters, informing Macbeth of the
deed. He informs Macbeth that "Fleance is 'scaped "
(Fleance escaped), (Line 20). Macbeth asks about Banquo
to which the First Murderer replies that Banquo is safe:
"Ay, my good lord; safe in a ditch he bides, / With
twenty trenched gashes on his head; " (Line 24).
Macbeth is all too aware of the consequences of Fleance's
escape: "There the grown serpent lies: the worm that's
fled / Hath [has] nature that in time will venom breed,"
(Fleance the worm that escaped will in time breed a
venom or line of kings Macbeth was hoping to prevent),
Macbeth whilst eating, is haunted by the Ghost of Banquo.
Macbeth's talking to himself begins to unsettle Lady
Macbeth. She fears Macbeth may say something suspicious
and so she ends the feast early (Line 122).
Macbeth now reveals that he knows Macduff's movements;
"I keep a servant fee'd" (Line 132) or has
spies to keep him informed of his enemies. Macbeth,
still shaken by Banquo's Ghost resolves to see the Three
Witches or "the weird sisters:" tomorrow,
since Macbeth is eager for reassurance and to know more
of his destiny.
Macbeth now famously utters his expression that he
has killed so many and is so covered in blood that he
can now metaphorically speaking, no longer turn back
and seek salvation:
I am in blood / Stepp'd in so far, that, should
I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go
(Literal translation: I am in blood so deeply stepped
that even if I waded or walked no more, returning
would be as tedious or as time consuming and difficult
as going over or returning), (Line 136).
Says Lady Macbeth, "You lack the season of all natures,
sleep" (Line 141).
Act III. Scene V. - A Heath.
Hecate: "you all know security / Is mortals' chiefest
Hecate, clearly in a position of command over the
Three Witches, scolds her subordinates for helping an
unappreciative Macbeth. Hecate instructs the Three Witches
to make preparations for her plan to use illusion and
the Three Witches' prophecies against Macbeth.
The Three Witches, eager to placate their master, eagerly
make preparations, doing as they are told...
Again to the prelude of thunder we see the Three Witches.
They meet with Hecate, which has been interpreted as
the Lord of the Witches but whose exact relationship
to the Three Witches is never made explicit. All that
we do know is that the Three Witches fear and respect
Hecate, doing as she instructs them.
Hecate is angry with her charges. They have meddled
with Macbeth without her consultation. She mocks them
for helping a man who "Loves for his own ends, not for
you" (loves or cares only about himself, not the Three
Witches), (Line 13).
Hecate tells the Three Witches too "make amends
now:" telling them to leave and meet her "at
the pit of Acheron", the name for Hell's river
the next morning (Lines 12-16).
By the end of the scene Hecate gains the Three Witches'
support for her plan. Her plan is to use illusion to
"draw him [Macbeth] on to his confusion:" (Line 29).
Macbeth will then "spurn [ignore] fate, scorn death,
and bear / His hopes 'bove [above] wisdom, grace, and
fear; / And you all know security / Is mortals' chiefest
enemy" (ignore fate, mock or scorn death, become arrogant,
take his own opinions above wisdom, grace and fear and
you all know that complacency or false security is a
person's worst enemy), (Line 30).
The scene ends with the First Witch suggesting haste
with their preparations. After all Hecate will "soon
be back again" (Line 37).
Act III. Scene VI. - Forres. A Room in the Palace.
We see Lennox and a Lord discuss affairs in their kingdom.
Lennox points out that all those who have sided with
Macbeth, namely the late King Duncan, "the right-valiant
Banquo" (Line 5) have paid dearly for this decision.
Lennox slyly suggests that Fleance may be responsible
for Banquo's death since he fled afterwards but we quickly
realize this is Lennox's way of finding out the Lord's
Lennox discusses how terrible it was that Donalbain
and Malcolm killed their father King Duncan. Macbeth
certainly did grieve... He adds that should Fleance,
Donalbain and Malcolm be captured that they would certainly
suffer but now Lennox realizing just how dangerous his
skeptical words of Macbeth are, changes the subject
by asking of Macduff.
We learn from the Lord who now makes his disgust of
Macbeth quite clear that an army is being formed in
England to fight Macbeth. "The son of Duncan"
Malcolm is now at the English court and has been well
received by the "most pious Edward" (Line
27). We finally learn that Macbeth knows this and is
preparing for possible war. Macduff may be in great