Why is the Banquet scene in Macbeth so dramatic?You know looking at the like of character changes and the mention of Macduff etc, thanks

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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In Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV, the banquet scene is dramatic. Macbeth appears to be losing his sanity. No doubt, he has the guilt of King Duncan's blood on his hands. He has just murdered King Duncan. He has just murdered the guards who were watching over King Duncan. He has just hired men to murder Banquo, and now, Banquo is sitting in Macbeth's seat of honor.

When Ross insists that Macbeth sit down in his seat of honor, Macbeth claims that the seating is full:

The table's full.

Macbeth is quite upset. He sees a ghost sitting in his place of honor.

I beg you, see there! Behold! Look! Lo! What do you say?
Why, what do I care? If you can nod, speak too.
If mortuaries and our graves must send
Those that we bury back, our tombs
Shall be the stomachs of birds.

Macbeth is hallucinating. He sees the ghost of Banquo sitting in his seat of honor. He is terrified by what he sees. Lady Macbeth tries to cover up Macbeth's moment of insanity. She urges the guests to just ignore his bizarre behavior:

Sit, worthy friends. My lord is often this way,
And has been from his youth. I beg you, stay seated.
The fit is momentary; in a minute,
He will again be well. If pay attention to him,
You shall offend him, and embarrass him.
Eat and ignore him.

Macbeth has his mind on Banquo who has just been murdered at Macbeth's orders:

I forgot.
Do not muse at me, my most worthy friends.
I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing
To those that know me. Come, love and health to all;
Then I'll sit down. Give me some wine, fill my cup full.
I drink to the general joy of the whole table,
And to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss.
Would he were here! To all, and to him we miss,
And all to all.

Again, Macbeth appears to be losing his sanity. He claims to see a gory image:

Begone! And get out of my sight! Let the earth hide you!
There is no marrow in your bones; your blood is cold.
You have no sight in those eyes
That you stare with!

No doubt, the banquet is unusual. Macbeth is consumed with guilt. He cannot pretend to be gay. He is under intense pressure. He is trying to cover up one murder with another. The result leaves Macbeth under a heavy load of guilt:

I am now so far
Stepped in blood that, if I don’t wade in it any more,
It doesn’t matter if I am getting out of it or going over it.
I have strange things in my head that need to be figured out,
Which must be done quickly before others look at them closely.

Lady Macbeth suggests that Macbeth get some rest:

You need to sleep.

The banquet ends in chaos.


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