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Free Study Guide-Macbeth by William Shakespeare-Booknotes Summary
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Act III, Scene 3

Summary

Outside the palace the original two murderers are joined by a third one sent by Macbeth. As the scene opens, the three of them are waiting for Banquo and Fleance to return from their ride in the countryside in order to carry out the murders plotted by the king. Banquo and Fleance enter on foot and converse about the weather. The dark, cloudy skies cause them to forecast rain. The murderers attack and stab Banquo first. He, in turn, screams to Fleance to "Fly, fly, fly! Thou mayst revenge (me)." Banquo dies, but his son escapes on foot into the darkness of the night. The murderers comment to one another that they "have lost (the) best half of our affair," and depart to tell the king the bad news.

Notes

This brief scene furthers the plot by showing the bungled murder of Fleance and the death of Banquo. It does little to develop character or theme. A third murderer has been sent by the fearful Macbeth. The distrusting king obviously wants this one to check up on the other two. The three of them together, plotting murder in the dark, continue the development of the dreary, chaotic mood of the entire play and recall the three witches plotting Macbeth's own downfall. It is also significant to note that the weather is again turning foul. Banquo comments that, "It will be rain tonight."


Shakespeare obviously wants this scene clearly tied to Macbeth. The third murderer comes in and says the king has sent him. This reminds the audience that Macbeth was the one who planned these murders and gave the details of how they were to be committed - outside the palace, in the dark, when Banquo and Fleance had dismounted from their horses. On foot, there is less chance of escape, and yet Fleance has managed to run away into the darkness (ironically, the same darkness that Macbeth has often asked to hide him.)

As a result of Fleance's escape, the audience knows that the witches' third prophesy, (the one about Banquo's sons becoming kings) is still a possibility, and suspense is built. After all, the first two prophesies, that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, have come to pass. The audience also realizes that Fleance's freedom will only add to Macbeth's growing paranoia. The chaos, begun in the very first scene and developed throughout the play, now intensifies again. Perhaps Banquo (goodness) will have his revenge!

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