In Act 3, Scene 1 of "Macbeth," Macbeth invites Banquo to a banquet. What does this reveal about his character?

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perfectsilence eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth's actual act of inviting Banquo to the banquet reveals little about his character, as he's just doing what kings do.  He's making appearances and rewarding those who serve him by feeding and hosting them.  He's showing hospitality, as he wishes to be seen in a positive light.  However, much more is revealed about Macbeth's character as he questions Banquo before the banquet.  In this act, he does refer to Banquo as "our chief guest," thus putting on an air of favoritism toward Banquo, despite his concern that Banquo could ruin his plans (11).  Banquo is suspicious of Macbeth, but agrees to attend the banquet nonetheless.  Macbeth then says "Ride you this afternoon?" to which Banquo replies that he is, indeed, going for a ride before the dinner (21).  Here Macbeth's devious nature again becomes visible to the audience; he expresses a small amount of sadness, saying he was hoping to talk to Banquo that afternoon, but resolves they can talk the next day, instead.  He then asks if Banquo will be riding far.  Again, Banquo tells him.  

Next, Macbeth attempts to change the subject and reinforce the belief that Malcolm and Donalbain were responsible for Duncan's death.  However, Macbeth's mind returns to the matter at hand, his desire to have Banquo ambushed and killed, when he asks upon saying parting "Goes Fleance with you?" (39).  As with certain instances before, Macbeth is attempting to hide his true desires, but he's not very good at it.  

Shortly after, Macbeth meets with two of the murderers, and informs them of where to kill both Banquo and Fleance.  But right before the murder occurs , Macbeth's inability to put together a foolproof plan is present as a third murderer, of which the first two were unaware, shows up.  This scene, as well as Act 3, Scene 1, again reflects Macbeth's short-sighted nature.  Macbeth consistently acts without thinking clearly, and this ends up being one of the major catalysts for his downfall.

troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth is trying to appear normal.  He wants Banquo to feel comfortable and welcomed to the banquet.  By reminding him that he wants him to attend, it shows how cold and calculating Macbeth truly is.  He asks questions as to where he and Fleance are riding and when they'll return so he can set up the murder/ambush.  He says

"Here's our chief guest" referring to Banquo, and then reminding him before he departs, he says, "Fail not our feast."

This scene shows how far Macbeth has come in his evilness.  He is cold and calculating and is willing to have his best friend killed to ensure himself the throne.