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In Act I, scene iii, Macbeth and Banquo go to visit the witches . During this meeting, the prediction that the three witches make about Banquo is that his sons would be kings. The first witch says, "Lesser than Macbeth, and greater." (Act I, scene iii) The second says, "Not so happy, yet much happier." (Act I, scene iii). And the third witch finishes the prophecy when she states, "Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none: /So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!" (Act I, scene iii.)
The witches, used throughout Macbeth to foreshadow the events in the play, essentially tell Banquo that he will be less than Macbeth, but greater that he will be not as happy as Macbeth yet much happier and that he will be king even though there will be no king. These condradictory ominous statements eventually do come true in the concluding act of the novel.
As a side note, Macbeth also seeks the advice of the witches when they tell him to beware of Macduff.
The 3 Witches recount to Macbeth three prophecies:
- Thane of Glamis(he already is)
- Thane of Cordor
- King here after
Prophecies to Banquo:
1.Macbeth is great, but you are greater
2.You will be happier than Macbeth
3.You won't be king, but your children will be.
dneshan answers the main level of this question, but below the surface is the likelihood that Shakespeare's witches are far more conspiritors than they are simple fortune tellers. As the play unfolds, it is this very prediction that Banquo "shalt get Kings" that serves as the motivating drive for Macbeth's decision to murder his best friend. The theme of deception and twisted truths is at play in this seemingly simple and nearly--at the start--innocent prediction that even Banquo and Macbeth take lightly at first.
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