To Be Thus Is Nothing But To Be Safely Thus

Explain this quote from Macbeth.

To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus-- Our fears in Banquo stick deep, And in his royalty of nature reigns that Which would be feared. 'Tis much he dares; And to that dauntless temper of his mind He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour To act in safety. There is none but he Whose being I do fear; and under him My genius is rebuked, as it is said, Marc Antony's was by Caesar.

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth is referring to Marc Antony and Octavius Caesar when he talks about fearing Banquo and feeling inferior to him. This simile derives from Plutarch. Shakespeare elaborated on it in his play Antony and Cleopatra in Act 2, Scene 3, in which the Egyptian soothsayer advises Antony to return to Egypt. This is probably good advice.

    Therefore, O Antony, stay not by his side:
    Thy demon, that's thy spirit which keeps thee, is
    Noble, courageous high, unmatchable,
    Where Caesar's is not; but, near him, thy angel
    Becomes a fear, as being o'erpower'd: therefore
    Make space enough between you.

    Antony. Speak this no more.

    Soothsayer. To none but thee; no more, but when to thee.
    If thou dost play with him at any game,
    Thou art sure to lose; and, of that natural luck,
    He beats thee 'gainst the odds: thy lustre thickens,
    When he shines by: I say again, thy spirit
    Is all afraid to govern thee near him;
    But, he away, 'tis noble.

    Antony. Get thee gone:
    Say to Ventidius I would speak with him:
    [Exit Soothsayer]
    He shall to Parthia. Be it art or hap,
    He hath spoken true: the very dice obey him;
    And in our sports my better cunning faints
    Under his chance: if we draw lots, he speeds;
    His cocks do win the battle still of mine,
    When it is all to nought; and his quails ever
    Beat mine, inhoop'd, at odds. I will to Egypt:
    And though I make this marriage for my peace,
    I' the east my pleasure lies.

Antony and Octavius are two quite different types. Antony is depicted as sensual, hedonistic, athletic, but improvident and reckless. Octavius is depicted as sober, calculating, cunning, and highly intelligent. In any contest between these two men, Octavius seems likely to win. In Jungian terms, Antony might be described as an extravert whose principal conscious function is sensation, while Octavius might be described as an introvert who principal conscious function is thinking. Naturally Octavius would be much better at planning, as is seen in the outcome of the rivalry between the two in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.

In Jungian terms, Banquo might also be described as an intellectual and introvert whose principal conscious function is thinking, while Macbeth might be described as an athletic extravert whose principal conscious function is sensation (physical action). Macbeth has good reason to be afraid of him, especially since the three witches have warned Macbeth that Banquo's descendants, not Macbeth's, will inherit the throne.

tisjay | Student

"To be thus is nothing . . . stick deep" - Macbeth is now king, after murdering the God-ordained king, Duncan. Only Banquo was present when the witches prophesied that Macbeth would become king; and Banquo knows that perhaps Macbeth's ambitions were ignited at that pointed. The witches also prophesied that Banquo's descendents would become kings "though thou be none". In addition, just before murdering Duncan, Macbeth probed Banquo's thinking to see whether he could be persuaded to join forces with him, and realized that Banquo was incorruptible. So Macbeth fears Banquo - because Banquo might put two and two together and figure out that Macbeth murdered Duncan. He is also fearful and jealous that Duncan's decendents would succeed him.

"And in his royalty . .   to act in safety. " - Macbeth feels that Banquo possesses qualities that make him truly royal- fearlessness governed by prudence, wisdom and honour.  This makes Macbeth jealous and insecure, because he suspects that Banquo would be dangerous to him and at the same time, prove to be the better king. He also knows that Banquo would not act rashly, but act cautiously and this makes him a dangerous enemy.

"There is none. . . do fear" _ Macbeth convinces himself that once Banquo is dead, he will feel safe. However, he deludes himself. For one murder leads to another as he has to  murder more and more people to contain suspicion and his own fears,  in an effort to make his own position secure.