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Free Study Guide-Macbeth by William Shakespeare-Booknotes Summary
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Act III, Scene 1

Summary

This scene opens at the palace at Forres with Banquo alone but speaking aloud to an absent Macbeth. He begins by saying, "Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, as the weird women promised, and I fear thou play'dst most foully for't." Then Banquo wonders if the witches' prediction for him will also come true, that he will become "the root and father of many kings." His thoughts are then interrupted by a trumpet as King Macbeth and the Queen enter with Lennox, Ross and other lords, ladies, and attendants. The king invites Banquo to the banquet he is holding this evening. Banquo accepts the invitation and tells Macbeth he is forever at his service as a man of duty. Then Macbeth asks Banquo a series of questions to find out what Banquo plans to do for the rest of the day and with whom. He then reports that "our bloody cousins (Malcolm and Donaldbain) are bestowed in England and in Ireland, not confessing their parricide." Macbeth then sends Banquo off for his planned afternoon ride and the others off to enjoy themselves until the dinner scheduled for 7:00.

Macbeth is left alone with his thoughts and, in a soliloquy, states that to be king is nothing unless the king is safe. And he does not feel safe with Banquo, for "He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour to act in safety...and under him, my genius is rebuked." He also expresses his jealousy that the witches have proclaimed that Banquo's sons will some day be kings instead of his future offspring. (Macbeth has no sons.) He then laments that "for them (Banquo's sons) the gracious Duncan have I murdered and put rancours in the vessel of my peace and given mine eternal jewel (his soul)...to the common enemy of man (the devil)." By the end of the soliloquy, Macbeth reveals that he must kill both Banquo and his son Fleance.


A servant then enters with two common murderers that Macbeth has sent for. Macbeth manufactures a story to convince the two of them that Banquo has treated them poorly, "whose heavy hand hath bowed you to the grave and beggared yours forever." Macbeth asks them how they could possibly forgive Banquo, to which they answer, "We are men, my liege." Macbeth then asks them to murder Banquo. One of the murderers answers by saying the he is "so incensed (about his lack of fortune) that I am reckless what I do to spite the world," and the other also agrees. Then Macbeth confesses that Banquo is truly his deadly enemy, but he cannot openly kill him because of mutual friends. He makes the two men promise to be cautious about conducting the murder, "masking the business from the common eye." The murderers promise to do as commanded. Macbeth tells them the murder must be committed on this very night away from the palace, and the son Fleance must also be killed. The murderers agree to the plan and exit to await further instructions from the king. Macbeth closes the scene by speaking to an absent Banquo saying, "It is concluded." Macbeth heaps murder upon murder, and torture upon torture to his soul.

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