What reason does Macbeth give for why Banquo should be killed in Macbeth?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Banquo has done nothing wrong, and does not deserve to be killed.  Yet Macbeth is suspicious of him.  He was there when Macbeth heard the prophecies.  One of the prophecies referred to Banquo’s heirs being heirs to the throne.  Macbeth is therefore concerned, and decides Banquo must die.

To be thus is nothing,

But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo

Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature

Reigns that which would be fear'd. ’ (Act 3, Scene 1)

Unlike the murder of Duncan, Macbeth has no qualms about killing Banquo.  Banquo is a good friend, and has never been disloyal to Macbeth.  Yet he is afraid of his old friend.  He worries that Banquo will be suspicious of Duncan’s murder, since he was there when Macbeth received the prophecy that he would be king.  He also wants to avoid a “fruitless crown,” so he decides to kill Banquo and his son Fleance in order to ensure that none of Banquo’s “issue” take the throne after him.

Macbeth’s lack of sympathy for Banquo demonstrates the denigration of his moral character.  When Banquo’s ghost appears, Macbeth’s reaction is not guilt but anger.  He is annoyed that Banquo’s ghost should taunt him by appearing from the grave when he is supposed to be out of the way.


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