Macbeth And Banquo Relationship

Describe the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo in Macbeth. Does the relationship change during act 1?

Expert Answers
Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the play begins, Macbeth and Banquo are friends and comrades in arms, both Scottish noblemen and valiant defenders of King Duncan. The first description of them concerns how fiercely they had recently fought together to defeat the forces of the King of Norway and Macdonwald, a traitor to the King.

Macbeth and Banquo together encounter the witches on the heath where Macbeth hears their prophecy for the first time. Banquo reacts as a friend would at the sound of Macbeth's good fortune, then seeks to know his own future. Shortly after, Banquo warns Macbeth of danger, explaining that the witches may not be trustworthy:

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,

The instruments of darkness tell us truths,

Win us with honest trifles, to betray's

In deepest consequence.

By the end of Act I, Banquo still relates to Macbeth as his friend. Banquo has noticed a strangeness in Macbeth's behavior, but assumes it is merely a reaction to the new honor (Thane of Cawdor) he has suddenly received.

Macbeth and Banquo maintain their friendship into Act II, when Banquo mentions the witches. Macbeth lies, saying he never thinks of them, but tells Banquo that he would like to discuss them further. Macbeth then seeks to draw Banquo closer to him, inviting him to join Macbeth's cause when the time comes for him to become king. Banquo makes his position clear:

So I lose none

In seeking to augment it, but still keep

My bosom franchised and allegiance clear,

I shall be counseled.

With these words, Banquo sets limits on his loyalty to Macbeth. He will support Macbeth so long as he can do so with a clear conscience and an unguilty heart. Thus, Banquo's allegiance has been made conditional, a fact not lost on Macbeth.

After Duncan's murder and Macbeth's taking the throne, Banquo's suspicions are fully raised:

Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all,

As the weird women promised, and I fear

Thou play'dst most foully for 't.

Banquo trusts Macbeth no more and dies shortly thereafter at Macbeth's command.

mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the play, Banquo acts as a foil for Macbeth. The two characters begin the play as the best of friends, but when the Weird Sisters make their initial prophecy to both characters, they set the two against one another by telling Macbeth he'll be the king but that Banquo will be the father of kings. Their reactions set them apart, as Macbeth desires what the witches promise him, but Banquo replies, "The instruments of darkness tell us truths, / Win us with honest trifles, to betray [u]s / In deepest consequence."

Throughout the first part of the play, Macbeth's ambition is highlighted by Banquo's humility. In act 3, scene 1, after Macbeth has gained all that the Weird Sisters prophesied, Banquo is tempted to wish for their prophecy about him to come true but then tells this hope, "But hush! no more." This immediately contrasts with Macbeth's fear of the witches' prophecy about Banquo's sons, and so Macbeth's ambition drives him to order the murder of his friend and his friend's son to protect his claim to the crown.

Overall, even after his murder, Banquo serves as a reminder to Macbeth of humility as a counter to his ambition. Banquo haunts Macbeth's memories and even appears as a ghost to remind the king of the evils he's done because of his unquenchable ambition. All of this begins in the first act of the play, when the Weird Sisters make their initial prophecy to the two men.

Read the study guide:
Macbeth

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question