Act III - Scene III

[A park near the palace.]

Enter three Murderers.

FIRST MURDERER:
But who did bid thee join with us?
THIRD MURDERER:
Macbeth.
SECOND MURDERER:
He needs not our mistrust, since he
delivers
Our offices and what we have to do,(5)
To the direction just.
FIRST MURDERER:
Then stand with us.
The west yet glimmers with some streaks of day;
Now spurs the lated traveller apace
To gain the timely inn, and near approaches(10)
The subject of our watch.
THIRD MURDERER:
Hark! I hear horses.
BANQUO:
within. Give us a light there, ho!
SECOND MURDERER:
Then ’tis he: the rest
That are within the note of expectation(15)
Already are i’ the court.
FIRST MURDERER:
His horses go about.
THIRD MURDERER:
Almost a mile, but he does usually—
So all men do—from hence to the palace gate
Make it their walk.(20)
SECOND MURDERER:
A light, a light!

Enter Banquo and Fleance, with a Torch.

THIRD MURDERER:
’Tis he.
FIRST MURDERER:
Stand to't.
BANQUO:
It will be rain tonight.
FIRST MURDERER:
Let it come down. [They assault Banquo.](25)
BANQUO:
O, treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!
Thou mayst revenge. O slave!
THIRD MURDERER:
Who did strike out the light?
FIRST MURDERER:
Was't not the way?
THIRD MURDERER:
There's but one down; the son is fled.(30)
SECOND MURDERER:
We have lost best half of our affair.
FIRST MURDERER:
Well, let's away and say how much is done.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. Banquo, who has shown himself to be brave, self-possessed and a better man than Macbeth, thinks only of his son in this moment and takes actions that result in his death but that likely ensure Fleance gets to safety.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Shakespeare has the murder of Banquo shown onstage as opposed to not showing Macbeth murder Duncan earlier in the play. The choice to show this death likely revolves around how this scene represents a turning point, and Shakespeare also wanted the audience to know that Banquo is truly dead--especially considering the visions that Macbeth has after he learns what happened.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. The choice of the word "lated" (belated) means that the traveller is running a little behind schedule. Notice how the words "to gain the timely inn" suggest that the traveller has spurred his horse to make it move faster. The traveller doesn't want to be out on the highway after dark because of the danger from highwaymen.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Another reason for the inclusion of the Third Murderer is that Macbeth did not trust that the two murderers would be enough to carry out the deed. If we consider that the "perfect spy" he mentioned earlier referred to an actual person, it is possible that this is that man sent as a last minute reinforcement for the ambush.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. The identity of the Third Murderer is a point for much speculation, with some even suggesting that Macbeth himself is the Third Murderer in disguise. However, this is highly unlikely, given how he knows nothing of what transpires in this scene when the murderers later tell him the results.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. One of the possible reasons why Shakespeare includes a third murderer in this scene as a way to ensure that dialogue takes place. Without the Third Murderer, it's possible that the other two would wait in silence for Banquo and Fleance. However, with the third, the audience is able to experience the scene in a more complete and engaging way.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. The Second Murderer tells the First that he shouldn't be suspicious of the Third Murderer. He says that the newcomer has followed the same instructions the first two received from Macbeth about the time, place, and nature of the crime, exactly as they have--as shown by his choice of words, "to the direction just."

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. As short as it is, this scene is the climax, or turning-point, in the drama. Macbeth has been fortunate thus far with his plans, and by all appearances he has had a successful career without any setbacks. Fleance's escape is Macbeth's first sign of bad luck. Notice how after this moment, other events will contribute to Macbeth's downfall until the end.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor