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What quote shows that Macbeth is power-hungry in Act III?

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dchayes24 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 7, 2010 at 12:11 AM via web

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What quote shows that Macbeth is power-hungry in Act III?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 7, 2010 at 12:58 AM (Answer #1)

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By the time we get to Act III, Macbeth is the King of Scotland. He has gotten there by killing Duncan, mudering him as he slept.  So you would think that he would have all the power he needs.  But he doesn't.

In Act III, Scene 1, I think you can find some lines that show how Macbeth continues to want to have more power.  Specifically, he wants to make sure that the power will remain with him and his descendants rather than going over to Banquo's descendants as the witches predicted.  I would use this quote to show that:

They hail'd him father to a line of kings:
Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown(65)
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,
Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If't be so,
For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind,
For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered,(70)
Put rancors in the vessel of my peace
Only for them, and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!
Rather than so, come, Fate, into the list,(75)
And champion me to the utterance!

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 7, 2010 at 3:13 AM (Answer #2)

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To build on the quote the editor above uses, in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth's worries about Banquo and Fleance become more concrete and lead to plans to murder them in Act 3.2.

Macbeth is upset again, and his wife tries to calm him down.  He tells her to give Banquo her special attention, because they need to fool Banquo.  She tells him to stop talking like this, that Banquo and Fleance won't live forever, and he responds:

There's comfort yet; they are assailable.

Then be thou jocund.  Ere the bat hath flown

his cloistered flight, ere to black Hecate's summons

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums

Hath rung night's yawning peal, there shall be done

A deed of dreadful note. (Act 3.2.40-44)

Lady Macbeth, then, trying to reassure him, says not to worry, Banquo and Fleance can't live forever, and Macbeth turns that to something like:

  • You're right, we should be happy.  They are reachable.  Before night falls, something dreadful will happen.

The something dreadful is Macbeth's assassins trying to kill Banquo, and succeeding, and trying, but failing, to kill Fleance.

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