Act III - Scene I

[Forres. The palace.]

Enter Banquo.

BANQUO:
Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all,
As the weird women promised, and I fear
Thou play'dst most foully for't: yet it was said
It should not stand in thy posterity,
But that myself should be the root and father(5)
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.(10)

Sennet sounded. Enter Macbeth as King, Lady [Macbeth as Queen], Lennox, Ross, Lords, and Attendants.

MACBETH:
Here's our chief guest.
LADY MACBETH:
If he had been forgotten,
It had been as a gap in our great feast
And all-thing unbecoming.
MACBETH:
Tonight we hold a solemn supper, sir,(15)
And I'll request your presence.
BANQUO:
Let your Highness
Command upon me, to the which my duties
Are with a most indissoluble tie
Forever knit.(20)
MACBETH:
Ride you this afternoon?
BANQUO:
Ay, my good lord.
MACBETH:
We should have else desired your good advice,
Which still hath been both grave and prosperous
In this day's council; but we'll take tomorrow.(25)
Is't far you ride?
BANQUO:
As far, my lord, as will fill up the time
’Twixt this and supper. Go not my horse the better,
I must become a borrower of the night
For a dark hour or twain.(30)
MACBETH:
Fail not our feast.
BANQUO:
My lord, I will not.
MACBETH:
We hear our bloody cousins are bestow'd
In England and in Ireland, not confessing
Their cruel parricide, filling their hearers(35)
With strange invention. But of that tomorrow,
When therewithal we shall have cause of state
Craving us jointly. Hie you to horse; adieu,
Till you return at night. Goes Fleance with you?
BANQUO:
Ay, my good lord. Our time does call upon's.(40)
MACBETH:
I wish your horses swift and sure of foot,
And so I do commend you to their backs.
Farewell.

Exit Banquo.

Let every man be master of his time
Till seven at night; to make society(45)
The sweeter welcome, we will keep ourself
Till supper time alone. While then, God be with you!

Exeunt Lords[and Lady Macbeth].

Sirrah, a word with you. Attend those men
Our pleasure?
SERVANT:
They are, my lord, without the palace gate.(50)
MACBETH:
Bring them before us.

Exit Servant.

To be thus is nothing,
But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo
Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature
Reigns that which would be fear'd. ’Tis much he dares,(55)
And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,
He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valor
To act in safety. There is none but he
Whose being I do fear; and under him
My genius is rebuked, as it is said(60)
Mark Antony's was by Caesar. He chid the sisters,
When first they put the name of King upon me,
And bade them speak to him; then prophet-like
They hail'd him father to a line of kings:
Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown(65)
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,
Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If't be so,
For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind,
For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered,(70)
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,(75)
And champion me to the utterance! Who's there?

[Re]-enter Servant and two Murderers.

Now go to the door, and stay there till we call.

Exit Servant.

Was it not yesterday we spoke together?
FIRST MURDERER:
It was, so please your Highness.
MACBETH:
Well then, now(80)
Have you consider'd of my speeches? Know
That it was he, in the times past, which held you
So under fortune, which you thought had been
Our innocent self? This I made good to you
In our last conference, pass'd in probation with you(85)
How you were borne in hand, how cross'd, the instruments,
Who wrought with them, and all things else that might
To half a soul and to a notion crazed
Say, “Thus did Banquo.”
FIRST MURDERER:
You made it known to us.(90)
MACBETH:
I did so, and went further, which is now
Our point of second meeting. Do you find
Your patience so predominant in your nature,
That you can let this go? Are you so gospell'd,
To pray for this good man and for his issue,(95)
Whose heavy hand hath bow'd you to the grave
And beggar'd yours for ever?
FIRST MURDERER:
We are men, my liege.
MACBETH:
Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men,
As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,(100)
Shoughs, waterrugs, and demi-wolves are clept
All by the name of dogs. The valued file
Distinguishes the swift, the slow, the subtle,
The housekeeper, the hunter, every one
According to the gift which bounteous nature(105)
Hath in him closed, whereby he does receive
Particular addition, from the bill
That writes them all alike; and so of men.
Now if you have a station in the file,
Not i’ the worst rank of manhood, say it,(110)
And I will put that business in your bosoms
Whose execution takes your enemy off,
Grapples you to the heart and love of us,
Who wear our health but sickly in his life,
Which in his death were perfect.(115)
SECOND MURDERER:
I am one, my liege,
Whom the vile blows and buffets of the world
Have so incensed that I am reckless what
I do to spite the world.
FIRST MURDERER:
And I another(120)
So weary with disasters, tugg'd with fortune,
That I would set my life on any chance,
To mend it or be rid on ’t.
MACBETH:
Both of you
Know Banquo was your enemy.(125)
BOTH MURDERERS:
True, my lord.
MACBETH:
So is he mine, and in such bloody distance
That every minute of his being thrusts
Against my near'st of life: and though I could
With barefaced power sweep him from my sight(130)
And bid my will avouch it, yet I must not,
For certain friends that are both his and mine,
Whose loves I may not drop, but wail his fall
Who I myself struck down. And thence it is
That I to your assistance do make love,(135)
Masking the business from the common eye
For sundry weighty reasons.
SECOND MURDERER:
We shall, my lord,
Perform what you command us.
FIRST MURDERER:
Though our lives—(140)
MACBETH:
Your spirits shine through you. Within this hour at
most
I will advise you where to plant yourselves,
Acquaint you with the perfect spy o’ the time,
The moment on ’t; for ’t must be done tonight,(145)
And something from the palace; always thought
That I require a clearness; and with him—
To leave no rubs nor botches in the work—
Fleance his son, that keeps him company,
Whose absence is no less material to me(150)
Than is his father's, must embrace the fate
Of that dark hour. Resolve yourselves apart:
I'll come to you anon.
BOTH MURDERERS:
We are resolved, my lord.
MACBETH:
I'll call upon you straight. Abide within.(155)
It is concluded: Banquo, thy soul's flight,
If it find heaven, must find it out tonight.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. While it's possible to consider that "spy" refers to the knowledge that Macbeth has regarding Banquo's whereabouts, it is also likely that "spy" could mean "scout," and that Macbeth is telling them he will acquaint the murderers with one of his best scouts to help them.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Macbeth tells the murderers that even though he could openly ("barefaced") execute Banquo for no other reason than for his royal pleasure, there are other connections and relationships that would suffer. This restraint for the sake of image and other relationships is worth noting, particularly considering the kind of tyrant Macbeth later becomes.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. To put something to someone's bosom means to entrust someone with a charge or command. In this case, Macbeth states that if the murderers possess the necessary qualities, then he will give them this task. Also, notice how he subtly mocks the murders by implying that they are not men--"bosom" has connotations connected to femininity--to get what he wants, which is reminiscent of what Lady Macbeth did to him in earlier scenes.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Macbeth continues his extended metaphor to provide more meaning for his comparison: Some dogs have special qualities given to them by nature, and Macbeth hopes that these murderers also have gifts that will allow them to best carry out the murder.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. These two types of dogs are both older, historical names and references. "Shoughs" refers to a kind of lap-dog, believed to have been originally from Iceland. "Water-rugs" refers to a type of water dog that had a rough or shaggy coat (possibly a kind of poodle).

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Macbeth uses an extended metaphor to show his cautious appraisal of the murderers and to fully gauge the kind of men they are. His comparison of men and dogs reveals his belief that men, like dogs, are not created equally and have very different attributes.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Macbeth asks the murders whether they are so indoctrinated with the lessons from the New Testament that they would not carry out the deed. The lesson he is referring to is one in which Jesus advises that people love and forgive their enemies.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Macbeth is using the royal "we" in this passage, referring to himself in the third passage. Now that he is king, the use is appropriate, but notice how he doesn't consistently use it. By "innocent self," Macbeth lies to the murders, saying that even though they thought that he had offended them, the real person to blame is Banquo.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Macbeth tells the murderers that it was Banquo who offended them in the past. However, given the readers knowledge that Macbeth wishes Banquo dead, it is more than likely that Macbeth is truly to blame for the murderers being offended for not receiving promotions. Regardless, he has convinced them that Banquo is to blame and uses their anger to achieve his own goals.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. The First Murderer's reply is likely spoken in a grim tone in order to address Macbeth's challenge of their bravery. This line indicates that they are not cowards and are strong and eager enough to seek revenge on Banquo.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. Recall how earlier in the play, before killing Duncan, Macbeth states that he knows he'll pay for the murder of Duncan with his own soul. Here, he acknowledges how his soul ("mine eternal jewel") has been given to the devil ("the common enemy of man") in order to fulfill his ambitions, and how he still intends to kill other who threaten him.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. In many royal families, the crown was passed down the line of descendants linearly--that is, from parents to sons or daughters or other relatives of direct descent. By "unlineal," Macbeth means that someone not related to him or Duncan's line who intends to try and take the throne.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Macbeth bitterly states that even though he is king, the witches have given him a "fruitless crown" and an "barren sceptre." Both of these phrases are metaphors for Macbeth's inability to produce children to be his heirs, represent his feelings of inadequacy, and demonstrate why Macbeth fears Banquo and Banquo's children.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. Shakespeare learned the story of Antony and Caesar them from Plutarch's Lives, which he had read a few years before writing Julius Caesar. Macbeth's allusion to these characters represents how Caesar's genius, or spirit, overpowered Antony's even though Antony was a better man in many respects.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. Macbeth's soliloquy gives us an excellent characterization of Banquo and the reasons Macbeth has to fear him. We learn that Macbeth is not content with the crown while Banquo lives, and how Macbeth's character has deteriorated with power and fear. Recall how earlier in the play Macbeth hesitated and faltered over committing Duncan's murder. Now, despite their old friendship, nothing holds him back from plotting against Banquo.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. The word "genius" has multiple meanings. Macbeth could be referring to genius, or presiding spirit, that each person has at birth to govern their fortunes and determine personal character. Another interpretation is that he is talking about his own intellect and talents. Considering that the former definition is older than the more modern meaning in the latter, Macbeth is likely stating that Banquo's genius is more powerful than his own.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. Notice that this is the last of Macbeth's questions regarding Banquo's ride, and that each has become more specific until this last and most important point. Macbeth has plans for Banquo and his son, and wants to see whether he can act against them at the same time.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. By "strange invention," Macbeth is most likely alluding to reports that the princes have been circulating that he murdered Duncan instead of them. The word choice here allows Macbeth to make such reports sound completely false and almost ridiculously absurd--which, he would be keen to do.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. Parricide refers to the act of murdering one's father, mother, or a close relative. A more specific word choice would be patricide which specifically refers to the act of murdering one's father.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  20. Considering what happens later in this scene, this question is asked under false pretenses. Macbeth pretends to inquire as a friend, but his ulterior motive is to inform himself of Banquo's plan, so that he may know Banquo's whereabouts to set the ambush.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. Banquo earlier declared that he stood opposed to all signs of treason; however, in this short soliloquy, he appears to have a different attitude. Even though he suspects Macbeth of murdering Duncan, he makes no effort for vengeance. Instead, he contemplates the prophecy that his descendants shall be kings, hoping that this prophecy shall also come true. While he isn't trying to make this happen, he is serving Macbeth with the hope that his house will benefit.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. A "sennet" is a set of notes played on a brass instrument, such as a trumpet or cornet, that was used in stage directions of Elizabethan plays as a signal for ceremonial entrances or exits of certain actors--in this case, King Macbeth.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  23. Macbeth brazenly talks about Malcolm and Donalbain as if to dare Banquo to disagree with his assumption that the sons were responsible for Duncan's murder. However, Banquo is the soul of discretion. He knows Macbeth is a dangerous man, especially now that he is the king, and will not agree to besmirch the reputations of the princes. Instead he makes an excuse to cut the conversation short and get away. He tells Macbeth he is pressed for time. 

    — William Delaney