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Banquo, Scottish general


"Dismay'd not this / Our captains, Macbeth and Banquo?" (1.2.35), asks King Duncan, when the sergeant tells about the Norwegian king mounting a surprise attack against the Scottish forces. This is the only mention of Banquo in the scene, but it is clear that Banquo, too, was a hero in the battle. [Scene Summary]


"What are these / So wither'd and so wild in their attire" (1.3.39-40), asks Banquo upon seeing the witches. He and Macbeth are on their way to the King's palace at Forres when the witches appear and give their prophecies. Macbeth is "rapt" at their prophecies, but when Banquo asks the witches what they have to say about his future, he challenges them to "Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear / Your favours nor your hate" (1.3.60-61). Thus it appears that Banquo is not nearly so impressed with the witches as Macbeth is. [Scene Summary]


After Macbeth and Banquo have defeated the rebels, King Duncan praises Macbeth, then says to Banquo: "Noble Banquo, / That hast no less deserved, nor must be known / No less to have done so, let me enfold thee / And hold thee to my heart" (1.4.29-32). Banquo's response is brief and modest. [Scene Summary]


This guest of summer, / The temple-haunting martlet, does approve, / By his loved mansionry, that the heaven's breath / Smells wooingly here" (1.6.3-6). Thus Banquo, before the gates of Macbeth's castle, agrees with King Duncan that it is a place where the air is sweet. The swallow ("martlet") shows ("doth approve") that air is good by building nests on the castle walls. [Scene Summary]


Banquo asks his son, Fleance, "How goes the night, boy? (2.1.1). Thus opens the scene which ends with Macbeth going to murder his King. Before he goes to bed, Banquo speaks with Macbeth, who suggests they discuss the witches, and that when they do, some "honor" might come Banquo's way, but Banquo is suspicious of Macbeth's motives. [Scene Summary]


"Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! awake!" (2.3.75), Macduff calls out, after discovering the body of King Duncan. Banquo has only one speech in this part of the scene. When Lady Macbeth expresses shock that the murder has taken place "in our house," Banquo says that it is "Too cruel any where" (2.3.88), and then pleads with Macduff to say that King Duncan has not been murdered. Later in the scene, Banquo takes control of the situation by proposing that they hold a meeting to consider the murder of the King. We never hear of that meeting again, but apparently its result is that Macbeth is named king. [Scene Summary]


The third act opens with a soliloquy in which Banquo speaks to Macbeth (even though Macbeth isn't there). The soliloquy begins: "Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all, / As the weird women promised, and, I fear, / Thou play'dst most foully for't" (3.1.1-3). Banquo then wonders if his descendants will become kings of Scotland, because the Witches predicted that, too. Later in the scene, Macbeth makes a big point of treating Banquo as an honored guest, but as soon as Banquo has gone, Macbeth calls in two men and persuades them that they must murder Banquo. [Scene Summary]


Macbeth doesn't tell his wife that he has arranged for the murder of Banquo, but she sees that something is eating at her husband. After Banquo has gone on his ride, she speaks with Macbeth and tries to persuade him to put the past behind him and to act nice to their guests. Bitterly, he tells her that they need to act particularly nice to Banquo:

Let your remembrance apply to Banquo;
Present him eminence, both with eye and tongue:
Unsafe the while, that we
Must lave our honours in these flattering streams,
And make our faces vizards to our hearts,
Disguising what they are.   (3.2.30-35)
His point is that just the fact that Banquo is alive makes them unsafe, so they have to make nice to Banquo, no matter how they really feel. He hates the idea, and it's one of the reasons he's having Banquo murdered. [Scene Summary]


When the three murderers attack Banquo and Fleance, Banquo is able to hold all three off long enough for Fleance to escape. As he is fighting he cries out, "O, treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly! / Thou mayst revenge" (3.3.16-17). These are words of a warrior, one who believes it's ok for Fleance to run away now, because later, when he grows up and learns to use a sword, he can come back and take revenge. [Scene Summary]


The night that Banquo is murdered, Macbeth gives a banquet for his nobles. Things have barely gotten started when First Murderer comes to the door to tell Macbeth that Banquo is dead, that "safe in a ditch he bides, / With twenty trenched gashes on his head" (3.4.25-26). Macbeth returns to his guests and, in a show of supreme hypocrisy, praises Banquo and wishes he were at the banquet. Ironically, he gets his wish. As Macbeth starts to sit among his guests, he finds that the Ghost of Banquo has taken his place. The ghost nods at Macbeth, as though to say "you did this." Macbeth betrays his fear, and the ghost leaves, only to return when Macbeth proposes a toast to his good friend Banquo. [Scene Summary]


In the course of a sarcastic commentary on Macbeth's version of recent events, Lennox says to another Lord, "And the right-valiant Banquo walk'd too late; / Whom, you may say, if't please you, Fleance kill'd, / For Fleance fled: men must not walk too late" (3.6.7). [Scene Summary]


"Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo: down!" (4.1.112). Thus Macbeth cries out after he has demanded to know if Banquo's descendants will be kings of Scotland. In answer, the witches have called up a "show" of eight kings, escorted by the Ghost of Banquo, who smiles to show that they are all his descendants. [Scene Summary]


As Lady Macbeth sleepwalks, she thinks she is talking to her husband, and she says, "Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so pale.--I tell you yet again, Banquo's buried; he cannot come out on's grave" (5.1.62-64). Here two memories have fused. One memory is of the time just after the murder of King Duncan, and the other is of the appearance of Banquo's Ghost. On both occasions, she had to talk her husband out of a kind of trance. [Scene Summary]

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