In Act 3, Scene 2, why does Macbeth not tell Lady Macbeth about his plans to murder Banquo?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act 3, scene 2 of Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, there are three possible reasons why Macbeth chooses not to tell Lady Macbeth of his plans to kill Banquo. 

The first reason is that Macbeth needs Lady Macbeth to assure Banquo that he is welcome and in no danger. Consider what he says to her in lines 30-35: 

"So shall I, love, and so, I pray, be you.

Let your remembrance Apply to Banquo; present him eminence,

Both with eye and tongue: unsafe the while that we

Must lave our honors in these flattering streams,
 
And make our faces vizards to our hearts,
 
Disguising what they are." 
Perhaps he feels that if she knew of his plans, Lady Macbeth would not be able to give a performance that would make Banquo feel that he had nothing to fear from either of them. He knows that they are in danger if anyone should begin to suspect their intentions. Consequently, in Macbeth's mind, it may be best to not involve her in his plans at this point. 
 
When Macbeth hints that Banquo and Fleance will soon be out of the picture, Lady Macbeth directly asks him what he is planning to do. His answer contains a second possible reason he does not tell Lady Macbeth his plans: 
"Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,
Till thou applaud the deed." 
When Macbeth wavered in his conviction to kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth urged him on by questioning his manhood. This time, he hopes she will be proud of his courage and his ability to act alone, without her help. Banquo is not an immediate threat to Macbeth, but he wants to kill him and his son so that the witches' prophecy will not come true. 
 
A third possible reason why Macbeth does not tell Lady Macbeth about his plans could stem from pride or love. It is possible that now that he is king he feels he does not need anyone's help to carry out his plans. He may feel pride in his new position and think he is above reproach. It is alternatively possible that he is trying to spare Lady Macbeth from further guilt by not adding another crime to her conscience. He says: 
"But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer,
 Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep
 In the affliction of these terrible dreams
 That shake us nightly."
With these words, he shares that he is enduring mental torture because of the murders he has committed. Perhaps he is seeking to save Lady Macbeth from more of this mental torture.  
luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth, "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, / Till thou applaud the deed."  He is telling her that he doesn't want her to know until after the deed and then she'll be pleased with what he's done.   There are a couple possible reasons for why he isn't telling her.  It could be that he wants her to be proud of him for having the ability to plan and carry out a murder on his own.  In Act 1, sc. 7, when Macbeth suggests to his wife that they not go through with the murder of Duncan, she essentially calls him a wimp.  She attacks his masculinity and her tactic worked because Macbeth decides to go along with her.  She is the one who devised the plan, too. So it is entirely possible that he is trying to impress her.  Another possible reason for not telling Lady Macbeth of his plan to have Banquo and Fleance killed is "plausible deniability", but I have more belief in the first reason.

suman1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It should be noted in this regard that Shakespeare intentionally inserts a scene (Act III, Sc. ii) after Macbeth finishes his conversation with the murderers. In this scene the audience expects discussion between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth about Macbeth’s plan to kill Banquo. But Macbeth intentionally does not speak about his plan. On the contrary he asks Lady Macbeth to specially look after Banquo in the banquet. Shakespeare has intentionally done this because he has wanted to project Macbeth as a Machiavellian king. Macbeth has received foul advices from Lady Macbeth before he has received his kingship. Now the evil Macbeth as a king will act alone – Lady Macbeth has already killed the ‘fair’ residing in him.

cp5467 | Student

Macbeth has further entered into an evil mindset, more capable of committing a crime on his own, and much more willing, so as to not be disgraced by his wife.  In the beginning, Lady Macbeth was the one to control Macbeth (more or less) and in a reversal of character qualities portrayed by Shakespeare, Macbeth becomes the onw witht the greater evil and the one witht the greater motive - to fulfill his 'fortune' as king.