In Macbeth, what is Macbeth's immediate reaction to the witches prediction that he will be king (1.3.51)?
What does this tell us about Macbeth's ambitions prior to meeting the witches?
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Macbeth's immediate reaction is to be entranced before coming to his senses and asking for more information. We hear of Macbeth's first reaction not from Macbeth himself, but from Banquo who seems more annoyed with the witches' pronouncement. Banquo says, "My noble partner / You greet with present grace and great prediction / Of noble having and of royal hope, / That he seems rapt withal" (1.3.54-57). Therefore, Banquo is speaking here as Macbeth stands listening to these events in a sort of trance. As soon as the witches snap Macbeth out of it by a triple dose of "Hail!," Macbeth immediately replies with, "Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more: / By Sinel's death I know I am Thane of Glamis; / But how of Cawdor?" (1.3.70-72). This indicates that Macbeth has always had the ambition to be king. Perhaps he stands in a trance at the beginning because the witches guessed his one true desire. Regardless, it is the witches prediction (and Lady Macbeth's later further persuasion) that catapult Macbeth into the very "vaulting ambition" of which the tragic hero of Macbeth is so very famous.
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