Reading Shakespeare: Macbeth Act 3

We continue the play with Macbeth crowned King.

Scene 1

Summary: Scene one starts with Banquo alone, contemplating his plans. He is strongly suspicious of Macbeth and at this time believes that he is the true murderer of Duncan, but he recalls the prophecy which stated that his own sons will become kings. His thoughts are interrupted by King Macbeth and Lady Macbeth walking up. After a bit of small talk about the sons of Duncan Macbeth invites Banquo to a feast in his honor. Banquo says he has to leave but he will attend if instructed. After a bit more small talk he takes off.

After Banquo leaves Macbeth dismisses the Queen and servants and summons two men who are described as murderers. He tells them that Banquo is their enemy and instructs them to kill him and his son.




Commentary: Banquo’s opening is interesting. In the previous acts, he appears to be unfazed by the Witches prophecy, but this opening reveals otherwise. From his inner monologue, he knows Macbeth is the true murderer but he won’t do anything about it because after all if that part came true that means that eventually, his children will be kings. So just like Macbeth, he is also tempted by the lure of the supernatural.

The rest of the scene is your typical tyrant king hires killers to kill his old friend. Ruthless because he also includes his children but it makes sense due to the prophecy.

Scene 2 

Summary: Lady Macbeth is trying to comfort her husband who is clearly not at ease with the murder of Duncan and also worrying about Banquo. She knows the prophecy and equally worries about what will happen in the end.

Commentary: This scene has my favorite line, O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife. Both Macbeth and his wife are starting to lose it, on one hand from guilt at the murder on the other with paranoia. An interesting point here is that Macbeth does not tell her that he already hired men to murder Banquo and his son.

Scene 3

Summary: The murderers wait for Banquo and his son at twilight. When they finally approach in the middle of the night they fall upon them and murder Banquo. But, Fleance, his son, manages to escape.

Commentary: Not much to say about this scene except that it marks the beginning of the end for Macbeth. It’s the first time in the play where something does not go according to plan. It’s a basic trope scene where the father is murdered by the evil king’s men while banquomurder.jpgthe young son escapes so he can one day return as king. Pretty much Lion King.

Scene 4

Summary: All the lords are gathered at Macbeth’s castle for the planned banquet. After the introductions, Macbeth notices that one of the murderers has arrived. After a brief conversation, he finds out that Banquo was murdered but Fleance has escaped. When he returns to the banquet he starts to have a breakdown when he sees the ghost of Banquo sitting in his chair. Lady Macbeth calms him down and takes control of the situation but when the time for the toast arrives the ghost reappears and Macbeth beings to address it directly even tho nobody else can see it. He starts incriminating himself so Lady Macbeth calls the banquet over and sends all the lords away.

Commentary:  This is the best scene of the play. Here is the full-on breakdown of Macbeth. He starts having a freakout and speaking the invisible ghost of Banquo like a lunatic. Lady Macbeth tries to control the situation but he is too far gone. The scene is great, a full royal banquet and the king has a supernatural freakout. I can picture the other nobles grinding their teeth as they realize that this guy is most likely a madman and possibly a murderer.

Scene 5

Summary:  The three witches have a conversation with Haecte.

Commentary: When I first read this it made absolutely no sense so I looked it up based on the commentary in my copy. All scholars believe that this scene was inserted by another writer and not original to the play so it’s always skipped and never portrayed on stage.

Scene 6

Summary: Lennox(one of the Thanes) and an unnamed Lord are sarcastically discussing the murders and the tyranny of Macbeth. They mention that Macduff has taken off to England and has linked up with Duncan’s son Donalbain to raise an army so they could liberate Scotland from Macbeth.

Commentary:  This scene is almost identical to Act 2, Scene 4, where Ross is talking to an old man about all the ills that befell Scotland after Duncan’s murder. Both of these scenes are used to illustrate the larger world outside. We find out that most of the Lords now believe Macbeth murdered Duncan and that one of them MacDuff even took off to raise an army with Duncans son.

I like these scenes because they are extremely utilitarian. They paint a picture of the setting through several lines of quick conversation. We know that everything has fallen apart, bad omens abound, the peasants are unhappy, and the nobility is on the verge of revolt. Macbeth is ruling a crumbling kingdom and is openly seen as a tyrant. Shakespeare lets us know all of this through a quick efficient conversation between two minor characters.

Here is a bit of the Banquet scene from the recent MacBeth movie:



8 thoughts on “Reading Shakespeare: Macbeth Act 3

  1. I played Lennox in Shakespeare in The Park once. (It was a small cast, I also had the lines for a couple of other minor nobles.) The scene where Banquo’s ghost shows up at the banquet was one of the most fun moments I have ever had onstage. Our set was a large picnic table (this was literally “in the park”, we didn’t have a stage) and most of the cast was crammed on the benches, all looking like we were trying to act normal and not notice MacBeth going postal at the end of the table. This is a great play for scenery chewing, and the guy we had playing MacBeth really pulled out all the stops for this scene.

    And at some point during rehearsals the actor playing Banquo messed up “Fly, fly Fleance!” as “Flee, flee, Flyance!” and it was a 50/50 shot which version would come out during any given performance.

    Liked by 1 person


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s