How Does Macbeth Convince The Murderers To Kill Banquo

How does Macbeth convince the murderers that they should kill Banquo and Fleance in Act Three Scene 1 of Macbeth?

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Macbeth has apparently had some prior conversation with the two murderers, a conversation to which the audience is not privy, because he refers to that conversation now. Macbeth asks,

Well then, now
Have you considered of my speeches?  Know
That it was he, in the times past, which held you
So under fortune, which you thought had been
Our innocent self. This I made good to you
In our last conference, passed in probation with you
How you were borne in hand, how crossed, the instruments,
Who wrought with them, and all things else that might
To half a soul and to a notion crazed
Say "Thus did Banquo." (3.1.82-91)

He asks if they've thought over what he told them the last time they spoke together. Next, Macbeth tries to confirm that these men understand that it is Banquo who is responsible for their misfortunes even though they thought it was Macbeth at fault. He says that he proved this to them during their previous conversation along with describing how the men were deceived, how they were foiled ("crossed"), what evidence was used against them, who was working against them, and myriad other things that would convince even someone of little understanding that Banquo was to blame.

Thus, we don't really know the exact language that Macbeth has used to convince them since Shakespeare doesn't show us that conversation, but we can get a pretty good idea based on what is said in this scene. Macbeth goes on to ask,

Do you find
Your patience so predominant in your nature
That you can let this go? Are you so gospeled
To pray for this good man and for his issue,
Whose heavy hand hath bowed you to the grave
And beggared yours forever?  (3.1.96-101)

Now Macbeth wants to know if they are so passive that they will just allow Banquo to get away with all that he's done. He pushes, asking if they are really going to pray for this man and his children, this man who is responsible for their poverty and the likelihood that they will go to death early.  He encourages them to be men and to stand up for themselves.  

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Macbeth at this point in the play has lost all of his previous uncertainty related to pursuing his bloodthirsty ambitions. The witches' prophecies had proved correct for his ascension to be Thane of Cawdor, and now through submitting to the temptation to murder Duncan he has become king of Scotland. He is now looking to hire three (unnamed in the play) murderers to do his dirty work of depriving Banquo and his descendants of fulfilling the witches' prophecy of taking the throne. Macbeth's ambitions and lust for power now know no boundaries.

Macbeth convinces the murderers that all their problems in life and the general poverty they live in are not his fault but Banquo's. He therefore urges them on to take revenge for this state of affairs. It is not made clear in the play what exactly either Macbeth or Banquo ever did to cause the murderers hardship in the first place.

Macbeth also challenges the men's masculinity as a spur to action (masculinity is a recurring motif in the play - we see Macbeth's masculinity challenged by Lady Macbeth for example). He does this through the analogy of breeds of dogs, challenging the men to prove themselves as a stronger breed of man, just as there are stronger breeds of dogs - "...And so of men. Now, if you have a station in the file, Not i' th' worst rank of manhood, say 't, And I will put that business in your bosoms..." (Act 3 Scene 1 lines 103-106).

Macbeth therefore uses a two pronged strategy to manipulate the men into fulfilling his own evil purposes.


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