Macbeth Study Guide: Act 3: scenes 1-6

Act 3: scenes 1-6

By ShakespeareRelease Year: 1623

Scene 1

Characters: Macbeth, Banquo, the two murderers, an attendant.

The scene opens in the Forres palace, where Macbeth is preparing for the coronation. The first person entering the dining hall is Banquo. Walking through the hall he is thinking about the prophecy. The forecast for Macbeth has obviously come true - he is about to become a king. That means Banquo has also his reasons to cherish the hope of being the ancestor of the royal figures. The King and his Queen, accompanied by Ross, Lennox, and servants, solemnly enter the hall.

Macbeth also remembers the Witches’ words for Banquo. He doesn’t want to accept the fact that he has committed a murder for someone other to take a throne. So he decides to kill Banquo and his son Fleance, so they couldn’t shake his absolute power.

To prepare the murder, Macbeth asks about the Banquo's plans for the day. The friend guilelessly answers him that together with his son he is going to ride around the castle grounds. Macbeth lets everyone go until the evening dinner. And when everybody leaves, he asks the servant to bring the two men who are waiting at the gates. Talking with these two men, Macbeth convinces them that Banquo was the source of their misery and that he is their real enemy. Finally, the two agree with Macbeth and get ready to fulfill the planned.

This episode shows us that Macbeth has changed. He doesn’t suffer anymore from the pangs of conscience when it gets to killing. He finally has the throne and he won’t let anyone hinder him to rule, whatever it can mean.  

Scene 2

Characters: Macbeth and his wife, a servant.

Lady Macbeth sends a servant to find her husband. Now when she is the Queen of the Scots, she doesn’t feel the fulfillment she has expected she would. The thoughts about Duncan’s murder keep tormenting her. There is nothing left for her to desire, but she still doesn’t find a peace of mind. When Macbeth joins his wife, he also admits that the feeling of guilt is still torturing him. He cannot find a feeling of peace at nights and fear is his everlasting companion now. Lady Macbeth suggests him to forget the painful thoughts and enjoy the durbar. Then Macbeth tells her about his horrible plan to kill Banquo. But when she asks to tell her more, he refuses, saying that she’d better remain in the dark for her sake.

Scene 3

Characters: Macbeth, Banquo.

The assassins hired by Macbeth wait in ambush for Banquo and his son to attack them. The third assassin sent by Macbeth for insurance joins the other two. They hear horses and see Banquo and his son walking with the torches in their hands discussing the weather. The first men attack Banquo but he manages to warn his son and let him run away. Banquo has no chance to survive but Fleance escapes death. The assassins understand that killing of the boy was the primary part of the task. Yet, being unable to find him in the dark, they return to the castle to report the death of Banquo.

Scene 4

Characters: Macbeth and his wife, Ross, Lennox, lords, attendants, the first murderer.

The dinner party is in its full swing. The dining hall is full of people, who are enjoying the evening. Macbeth sees one of the murderers among the guests and unnoticeably absent himself to talk to the man. The murderer informs him that they have managed to kill Banquo but they have lost the boy. Macbeth is vexed by the news that Fleance remains alive. However, he decides to focus on the good part of the affair - Banquo is dead. Macbeth wants to take his place at the dinner table but sees bleeding Banquo's ghost, what terrifies Macbeth. He starts yelling at the ghost but since only he can see him, others are confused by the king’s behavior. Then his wife quickly saves the situation telling that the king has a momentary fit of debility. Nothing to worry about. Meanwhile, she tries to bring the king to senses. Finally, he puts himself together and calls everybody to continue the partying.

However, the ghost returns and Macbeth decisively loses control over himself. His lady interrupts the banquet and asks everybody to leave.

All leave and the Macbeths remaining alone discuss Macduff, who has not shown up at the dinner. Macbeth reveals that he has bribed Thane’s servant and will find out how loyal Macduff is to the king. Macbeth also wants to visit the Witches to learn more about his future. He states that from now nothing can stand in his way and the desired end justifies any of the means.

Scene 5

Characters: the Witches, Hecate.

On the deserted heath, the three Witches meet their patron Hecate, who is furious about what the three have done by telling Macbeth the prophecy. Now she orders them to meet him again and lull his vigilance with the baffling prophecy. They must give him a false sense of security.  

Scene 6

Characters: Lennox, another lord.

In one of the palace rooms, Lennox and one lord have a delicate conversation, concerning Duncan and Banquo’s deaths. At first by hints and then straightly, they share the suspicion that Macbeth stays behind these deaths. The lord tells that Duncan’s elder son Malcolm with the support of English king Edward is gathering the army to make

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