In Macbeth, why does Macbeth fear Banquo?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Macbeth's fear of Banquo is that, through him, the second part of the witches' initial prophecy will come true. According to the weird sisters, Macbeth would rule Scotland, but it would be Banquo's heirs--not Macbeth's--who would eventually inherit the throne. After Macbeth does become king, the idea that he has murdered Duncan for the benefit of Banquo's sons and grandsons is repugnant to him. Macbeth rails about the "barren scepter" the witches have placed in his hands, and he refuses to accept that he has given to Hell his very soul, his "eternal jewel," so that Banquo's line will enjoy power. 

Furthermore, Macbeth has some real concerns about Banquo in Macbeth's "here and now." Macbeth knows that Banquo is a man of good character and conscience whose loyalty lies with Scotland, not with Macbeth. If Banquo were to know Macbeth's role in Duncan's death, he would seek justice. This possibility troubles Macbeth:

Our fears in Banquo stick deep,

And in his royalty of nature reigns that

Which would be feared. 'Tis much he dares;

Macbeth then acknowledges that Banquo is a genuine threat to him: "There is none but he / Whose being I do fear." It is Macbeth's fear and jealousy that prompt him to have his former good friend murdered.



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