Act III - Scene IV


[In the palace.]

Banquet prepared. Enter Macbeth, Lady [Macbeth], Ross, Lennox, Lords, and Attendants.

MACBETH:
You know your own degrees; sit down. At first
And last the hearty welcome.
LORDS:
Thanks to your Majesty.
MACBETH:
Ourself will mingle with society
And play the humble host.(5)
Our hostess keeps her state, but in best time
We will require her welcome.
LADY MACBETH:
Pronounce it for me, sir, to all our friends,
For my heart speaks they are welcome.

Enter first Murderer

MACBETH:
See, they encounter thee with their hearts’ thanks.(10)
Both sides are even: here I'll sit i’ the midst:
Be large in mirth; anon we'll drink a measure
The table round. There's blood upon thy face.
MURDERER:
’Tis Banquo's then.
MACBETH:
’Tis better thee without than he within.(15)
Is he dispatch'd?
MURDERER:
My lord, his throat is cut; that I did for him.
MACBETH:
Thou art the best o’ the cut-throats! Yet he's good
That did the like for Fleance. If thou didst it,
Thou art the nonpareil.(20)
MURDERER:
Most royal sir,
Fleance is 'scaped.
MACBETH:
Then comes my fit again: I had else been perfect,
Whole as the marble, founded as the rock,
As broad and general as the casing air:(25)
But now I am cabin'd, cribb'd, confined, bound in
To saucy doubts and fears.—But Banquo's safe?
MURDERER:
Ay, my good lord. Safe in a ditch he bides,
With twenty trenched gashes on his head;
The least a death to nature.(30)
MACBETH:
Thanks for that.
There the grown serpent lies; the worm that's fled
Hath nature that in time will venom breed,
No teeth for the present. Get thee gone. Tomorrow
We'll hear ourselves again.(35)

Exit Murderer.

LADY MACBETH:
My royal lord,
You do not give the cheer. The feast is sold
That is not often vouch'd, while ’tis a-making,
’Tis given with welcome. To feed were best at home;(40)
From thence the sauce to meat is ceremony;
Meeting were bare without it.
MACBETH:
Sweet remembrancer!
Now good digestion wait on appetite,
And health on both!(45)
LENNOX:
May't please your Highness sit.

Enter Ghost of Banquo, and sits in Macbeth's place.

MACBETH:
Here had we now our country's honor roof'd,
Were the graced person of our Banquo present;
Who may I rather challenge for unkindness(50)
Than pity for mischance!
ROSS:
His absence, sir,
Lays blame upon his promise. Please't your Highness
To grace us with your royal company?
MACBETH:
The table's full.(55)
LENNOX:
Here is a place reserved, sir.
MACBETH:
Where?
LENNOX:
Here, my good lord. What is't that moves your
Highness?
MACBETH:
Which of you have done this?(60)
LORDS:
What, my good lord?
MACBETH:
Thou canst not say I did it: never shake
Thy gory locks at me.
ROSS:
Gentlemen, rise; his Highness is not well.
LADY MACBETH:
Sit, worthy friends; my lord is often thus,(65)
And hath been from his youth. Pray you, keep seat.
The fit is momentary; upon a thought
He will again be well. If much you note him,
You shall offend him and extend his passion:
Feed, and regard him not. Are you a man?(70)
MACBETH:
Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that
Which might appal the devil.
LADY MACBETH:
O proper stuff!
This is the very painting of your fear;
This is the air-drawn dagger which, you said,(75)
Led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts,
Impostors to true fear, would well become
A woman's story at a winter's fire,
Authorized by her grandam. Shame itself!
Why do you make such faces? When all's done,(80)
You look but on a stool.
MACBETH:
Prithee, see there! Behold! Look! Lo! How say
you?
Why, what care I? If thou canst nod, speak too.
If charnel houses and our graves must send(85)
Those that we bury back, our monuments
Shall be the maws of kites.

[Exit Ghost.]

LADY MACBETH:
What, quite unmann'd in folly?
MACBETH:
If I stand here, I saw him.
LADY MACBETH:
Fie, for shame!(90)
MACBETH:
Blood hath been shed ere now, i’ the olden time,
Ere humane statute purged the gentle weal;
Ay, and since too, murders have been perform'd
Too terrible for the ear. The time has been,
That, when the brains were out, the man would die,(95)
And there an end; but now they rise again,
With twenty mortal murders on their crowns,
And push us from our stools. This is more strange
Than such a murder is.
LADY MACBETH:
My worthy lord,(100)
Your noble friends do lack you.
MACBETH:
I do forget.
Do not muse at me, my most worthy friends.
I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing
To those that know me. Come, love and health to all;(105)
Then I'll sit down. Give me some wine, fill full.

Enter Ghost

I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table,
And to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss.
Would he were here! To all and him we thirst,
And all to all.(110)
LORDS:
Our duties and the pledge.
MACBETH:
Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!
Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou dost glare with.(115)
LADY MACBETH:
Think of this, good peers,
But as a thing of custom. ’Tis no other,
Only it spoils the pleasure of the time.
MACBETH:
What man dare, I dare.
Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,(120)
The arm'd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger;
Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble. Or be alive again,
And dare me to the desert with thy sword.
If trembling I inhabit then, protest me(125)
The baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery, hence!

[Exit Ghost.]

Why, so: being gone,
I am a man again. Pray you, sit still.
LADY MACBETH:
You have displaced the mirth, broke the(130)
good meeting,
With most admired disorder.
MACBETH:
Can such things be,
And overcome us like a summer's cloud,
Without our special wonder? You make me strange(135)
Even to the disposition that I owe,
When now I think you can behold such sights,
And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks
When mine is blanch'd with fear.
ROSS:
What sights, my lord?(140)
LADY MACBETH:
I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and
worse;
Question enrages him. At once, good night:
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.(145)
LENNOX:
Good night, and better health
Attend his Majesty!
LADY MACBETH:
A kind good night to all!

Exeunt Lords

MACBETH:
It will have blood: they say blood will have blood.
Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;(150)
Augures and understood relations have
By maggot pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret'st man of blood. What is the night?
LADY MACBETH:
Almost at odds with morning, which is
which.(155)
MACBETH:
How say'st thou, that Macduff denies his person
At our great bidding?
LADY MACBETH:
Did you send to him, sir?
MACBETH:
I hear it by the way, but I will send.
There's not a one of them but in his house(160)
I keep a servant fee'd. I will tomorrow,
And betimes I will, to the weird sisters.
More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know,
By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good
All causes shall give way. I am in blood(165)
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
Strange things I have in head that will to hand,
Which must be acted ere they may be scann'd.
LADY MACBETH:
You lack the season of all natures, sleep.(170)
MACBETH:
Come, we'll to sleep. My strange and self-abuse
Is the initiate fear that wants hard use.
We are yet but young in deed.

Exeunt.


Footnotes

  1. The deed that Macbeth refers to is bloodshed and he says that they are not experienced enough with it. With this line, he fully indicates his intent to continue to kill others for the sake of his own security.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Notice how Lady Macbeth is not attempting to insult or comfort her husband now that the guests are gone. She likely realizes that the influence she once had over her husband no longer exists, and so the main course of action left to her is to get him to sleep so he forgets his thoughts.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Now that the guests have left, Macbeth relapses and begins to brood over the killing of Banquo. This line indicates that he is certain that the crime will be discoverer and that he will pay for it, that blood will be paid for with more blood. This idea is pervasive throughout the drama as Macbeth's bloody actions lead to bloodier consequences.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Macbeth addresses his wife directly, apparently no longer noticing the assembled guests. He can't believe that his wife didn't also see the ghost and states that the quality of his manhood must be so poor if he blanches with fear and she is unaffected by such sights. Notice how different this hallucination is from when he saw the phantom dagger.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Lady Macbeth quickly interrupts Ross's question to prevent Macbeth from telling them exactly what he saw. While she didn't see the ghost, it is likely that she has an idea of what Macbeth saw based on her knowledge of his hatred of Banquo and the hints Macbeth suggested to her earlier. She is also likely feeling distraught since her efforts to calm her husband have largely failed.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Upon seeing the ghost again, Macbeth's tone changes drastically as he is roused by anger, yelling at the ghost to go away and leave him be. The effect of this violent tone of voice would have a significant impact on the guests in attendance.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. This statement represents a type of formulaic response to the king's toast, in which the Lords acknowledge their host and king and drink to the toast he has proposed.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Notice here how, in an effort to be the gracious host, Macbeth goes too far and toasts to the health of Banquo, wishing that he were present. Macbeth is promptly punished for this brash action by the return of the ghost.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Having failed at shaming Macbeth back to his senses, Lady Macbeth tries a new tactic by calling his attention to the fact that he's neglecting his guests. This is initially successful, and he excuses his behavior and proposes a toast.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. The ghost has momentarily left the room, but Macbeth continues his rant. In this line, he recalls the information the First Murderer told him about the "twenty trenched gashes" on Banquo's head as he goes on about blood, death, and the rising of the dead. Readers should remember that the assembled Lords would be watching and listening to most of what Macbeth and his wife are saying and doing.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. As his vision continues to destabilize him, Macbeth starts to speculate on the nature of ghosts. In this excerpt, he wonders whether or not having a body torn to pieces by kites (a bird of prey) would make it impossible for a ghost to rise from that body.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. A charnel house, or sometimes just a charnel or mortuary, is a place where the bodies and remains of the dead are kept. As an adjective, charnel has a connotation of something being deathlike or ghastly, which applies to the scene that Macbeth sees before him since Banquo's ghost is likely a terrifying sight to look at.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. By suggesting that her husband is suffering from a long-term condition, she further encourages the assembled lords to sit and be patient by stating that acknowledging Macbeth's behavior will only make it worse and do him more harm than good.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. On the stage, before saying this line Lady Macbeth would have moved across the room to her husband and drawn him aside. This question is an attempt to shame him back into the proper frame of mind by accusing him of cowardice.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. Lady Macbeth quickly and tactfully responds to her husband's "fit" and blames his sudden emotion and words on a disorder that he has had since he was young. This tactic encourages the lords to take their seats once again. However, notice how her attempts to control the situation falter as the Ghost maintains its presence in the room.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. Macbeth loses his self-command upon seeing Banquo's ghost. This question represents a futile attempt to rid himself of the overwhelming guilt he likely feels by shifting the burden onto someone else in the company. However, since no one can see the Ghost besides Macbeth, this strategy fails and he completely fails to maintain control of himself.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. Macbeth has now turned his attention back to the table and hasn't quite realized what he's seeing. At first glance, he simply sees that all the seats are full; only when Lennox points out the seat reserved for him does Macbeth recognize the Ghost of Banquo.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. After getting the news that Banquo is dead, Macbeth makes a shamelessly hypocritical speech in which he states that he might have to call Banquo an unkind friend for not joining them for dinner--all the while secretly rejoicing that Banquo is dead. This speech makes the effect of seeing the ghost all the more overwhelming.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. At the very least, Macbeth is relieved of his present fears regarding Banquo. He acknowledges that Fleance is but a boy and will take time to grow and gather forces before ever attempting to take action against Macbeth.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  20. Macbeth had hoped that his anxiety and discontent would go away with the death of Banquo and Fleance. He refers to these problems as a "fit" and speaks of them as if he had an intermittent fever that is coming on again. If Fleance had also been killed, Macbeth believes he would have been "cured" of this fit and been completely well.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. The news that Banquo is dead causes Macbeth to praise the Murderer as the best of the cut-throats; however, he refrains from complementing him as the "nonpareil" (someone without equal) when he learns that Fleance escaped.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. The Ghost of Banquo sits in Macbeth's place in a symbolic action that represents what Macbeth feared: that Banquo's heirs will replace him. This vision and Macbeth's interactions with it reveal much of his mental instability to the audience and the lords gathered in the hall. Compare the coming interaction with the Ghost to how Macbeth was earlier able to maintain his composure even after killing Duncan.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  23. After inviting all the assembled lords to sit, Macbeth makes his way around the room to play the part of host and king, but he is anxious for news of Banquo and he doesn't sit down. Here, he catches sight of the murderer, declares that they will have a formal toast in a moment, and then speaks with the murderer.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  24. Macbeth realizes that he is only tormenting himself with his hallucinations and undermining his authority and reputation by creating such a spectable in front of these important assembled guests. He considers such self-abuse "strange" because it is not reasonable to play tricks on one's own self or to wish to cause one's self discomfort.

    — William Delaney