Why Does Macbeth Fear Banquo?
Macbeth is a famous tragic play by William Shakespeare that centers on Macbeth’s descent into evil as he is corrupted by power and ambition. An important character to the plot, Banquo, is a foil to Macbeth, providing a contrast in their personalities, values and ambitions. As a result, Macbeth’s fear of Banquo is a critical element of the play that exemplifies Macbeth’s growing paranoia.
1. Unlike Macbeth
Banquo is a noble figure in the play who shares similar ambitions to Macbeth but possesses the moral conviction to resist succumbing to evil. His refusal to take part in Macbeth’s schemes to acquire and maintain power makes him a threat to Macbeth’s evil designs. This sense of morality borders on heroism, which is something Macbeth lacks and fears.
2. Prophecy of Banquo’s Future
The witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s descendants will be kings is a major factor in Macbeth’s fear of him. In his ambition for the throne, Macbeth knows that Banquo represents a threat to him and his power so he plots to kill Banquo in order to take control of the situation.
3. Banquo’s Suspicion
Banquo’s suspicion of Macbeth’s involvement in the deaths of King Duncan, Banquo’s son, and others furthers Macbeth’s fear of him. Banquo is morally righteous and clever, so Macbeth fears that Banquo has figured out what Macbeth is up to and will try to take revenge against him.
4. Banquo’s Ghost
At the banquet, Banquo’s ghost appears in front of Macbeth, further inducing his fear. This serves as a reminder to Macbeth that Banquo refuses to remain dead and still poses a threat. Macbeth’s deep-seated fear is compounded as he observes Banquo’s ghost, and this experience hastens his madness.
In conclusion, Banquo presents a contrast to Macbeth due to his moral uprightness, making him an obstacle to Macbeth’s evil plans. The prophecy of Banquo’s descendants threatens Macbeth’s power and his suspicion of Banquo’s knowledge of him bring his fear to the forefront. Banquo’s ghost is the final capping to Macbeth’s fear and leads him to a downward spiral of madness and paranoia.
5. In what ways does Macbeth demonstrate his fear of Banquo throughout the play?
Macbeth demonstrates his fear of Banquo throughout the play in a variety of ways. Firstly, he is suspicious of his loyalty and acts cruelly towards him. Macbeth goes so far as to have Banquo’s son, Fleance, killed, in order to ensure Banquo himself cannot ascend to the throne. He is also wary of Banquo’s immense popularity with the public, and the fact that the prophecy given to him by the witches closely aligns with Banquo’s own. This causes Macbeth great anxiety and forces him to take extreme measures to ensure his own success, by any means possible.
1. What evidence in Macbeth’s character suggests he is afraid of Banquo?
In Act III scene 1, Macbeth shows his fear of Banquo when he says, “Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all/As the weird women promised, and I fear/Thou played’st most foully for’t.” As he says this, he is referring to the prophecy of the witches, and how Banquo is not only the father of the future kings of Scotland, but also that he himself may one day be king. This shows Macbeth’s fear of Banquo’s potential to become king.