Explain or summarize what is going on in Act 3 of Macbeth.

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reillyp eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act 3 of Macbeth is pivotal because Macbeth has killed Duncan. Conveniently, Banquo is out riding with his son Fleance and Macbeth sends 3 murderers to have him and his son killed while Macbeth is having a banquet to celebrate his becoming king. He does not tell his wife...but hints at it. He does, however, seem very upset that Macduff is not at the banquet: his absence is a betrayal to Macbeth.

While at the banquet, Macbeth tells all how much he misses Banquo and expects him soon (even though he knows Banquo is currently being murdered). Once Macbeth hears that Banquo is murdered, his ghost appears at the banquet.  Unfortunately for Macbeth, Banquo's ghost only appears to Macbeth at the banquet, Macbeth screams out, Lady Macbeth tells everyone that her husband is ill and sends everyone home.

Hectate, the head of the witches, is very upset with the 3 witches for pushing Macbeth to kill. From this moment on, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth both cannot sleep well as Macbeth finds out that Fleance has escaped and Lady is feeling guilty for the killing of Duncan as he resembled her father. Lennox speaks to a lord to tell him that he is figuring out that Macbeth is responsible for Duncan's murder as well as Banquo's murder. Also, Macduff is off to England to tell Malcom that he will help him to regain the throne.