What type of conflict does Act III in Macbeth present?

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Act 3 of Macbeth is wrought with internal conflicts.  When the act opens, Banquo reflects on the witches' prediction and here he admits that he suspects foul play on Macbeth's part.  But he also considers whether or not the prediction will come true for him also, and he hopes that they will so that he can stop thinking about what the witches said.  Banquo is troubled by the witches' prediction and thinks of it often.

Macbeth also reveals an inner conflict in Act 3.  He is quite afraid that the prediction will come true and that all his ill acts have been only for the benefit of Banquo and his sons.  Macbeth now wrestles with having to decide what to do next to secure his position on the throne.  Macbeth decides to have Banquo murdered and once again challenge the course of fate.

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Noelle Matteson | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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It is true that Act III focuses on internal conflicts, but it also has important external conflicts. The Macbeths greet a troubled Banquo and invite him to their feast. During the conversation, Macbeth inquires whether Banquo will go riding that afternoon. While attempting to maintain a casual pretence, Macbeth asks how long Banquo will be gone and if his son Fleance will accompany him.

The king reveals his intentions after Banquo leaves: “To be thus is nothing; / But to be safely thus.” Macbeth does not feel safe on his throne. He knows that Banquo is brave, noble, and probably suspicious of Macbeth. On top of that, the witches predicted that Banquo’s lineage would be kings.

Macbeth manages to convince two men to murder Banquo and Fleance, saying that Banquo, not Macbeth, financially thwarted them: it was Banquo “Whose heavy hand hath bow'd you to the grave / And beggar'd yours for ever.” Macbeth insults them and preys upon their desperation for money and revenge, easily manipulating them into committing these terrible deeds.

Lady Macbeth expresses worries that are similar to Macbeth’s:

Nought's had, all's spent,
Where our desire is got without content:
'Tis safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.

She also cannot rest now that she is queen. One subtle conflict is between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The two were once so open with one another, but now Macbeth does not let her know about his plot to kill Banquo: “Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck.”

Another major external clash occurs when the murderers slay Banquo, though Fleance escapes. This leads to the famous banquet scene in which Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth alone as an image of vengeance and guilt. Further trouble brews when Macbeth’s men begin to turn against him and gather forces in order to reclaim the crown for Duncan’s son Malcolm.

Act III sets the stage for future fights and depicts the most important conflict in the play, which is between Macbeth’s conscience, ambition, and paranoia.


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