How does Macbeth feel in the soliloquy in act 3, scene 1?

In his soliloquy in act 3, scene 1, Macbeth expresses his fear that now that he's become king by killing Duncan, he's simply facilitated the prophecy that the witches made to Banquo that Banquo's descendants will become kings, and at Macbeth's own expense. Macbeth rationalizes that it's in his best interests to have Banquo and Fleance murdered to avoid any such eventuality in order to secure his place on the throne of Scotland.

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Now that Macbeth has fulfilled the prophecy of the witches and succeeded in his own ambition to become king of Scotland by murdering King Duncan and taking the crown, Macbeth remembers that there is another prophecy that needs to be addressed, which is the prophecy that the witches made to Banquo, "Thou shalt get [beget] kings, though thou be none" (1.3.70)

This is an issue which Banquo himself raises at the very beginning of act 3, scene 1, almost immediately after Macbeth has been crowned king. In his opening lines in the scene, Banquo notes that the prophecy that the witches made to Macbeth has come true, but he suspects that Macbeth "play'dst most foully for't" (3.1.3)—that is, that that Macbeth killed Duncan to become king.

Interestingly, though, Banquo starts to think about the possibility that if the prophecy to Macbeth came true, might not the prophecy that the witches made to him also come true.

Military strategist that he is, Macbeth is once step ahead of any such eventuality. Macbeth is already planning to thwart that prophecy by murdering Banquo and Banquo's son, Fleance. In his soliloquy, Macbeth explains his reasoning for wanting to kill them and essentially tries to justify their murders, at least to himself.

"To be thus," meaning to be King, "is nothing" (3.1.52), Macbeth says, unless he feels safe on the throne, which is something he can't feel as long as Banquo and Fleance are alive. Macbeth believes that if Banquo wanted to be King, or wanted his children to be kings, then Banquo has the temperament, the wisdom, the courage, and the ability to accomplish those goals.

In a way, Macbeth acknowledges that Banquo is smarter than he is: "Under him my genius is rebuked" (3.1.59–60), and Macbeth fears that he can never be safe on the throne or rule effectively as king until he rids himself of Banquo and Fleance. Macbeth doesn't want his efforts to murder Duncan and put himself on the throne to be in vain by simply facilitating the prophecy that Banquo's descendants will become kings.

MACBETH. For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind,
For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered, (70)
...To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings! (3.1.69–70, 74)

In order to avoid that possibility, Macbeth decides to do whatever it takes to stay safely on the throne, and through the deaths of Banquo and Fleance, he intends to take the weight of the prophecy and the fear of its consequences off his mind.

As fate—and Shakespeare's knack for plotting his plays—would have it, the murderers that Macbeth summoned to kill Banquo and Fleance are waiting to speak with him at that very moment.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 19, 2020
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In this soliloquy Macbeth reveals both his insecurity that he will be able to retain his awfully gained throne and his bitterness when he realizes that the prophecy which favored his own ascendancy also predicted that the issue of Banquo, a much more worthy man, will gain the throne that Macbeth gives up his "precious jewel" (his soul) to attain for them both.

Macbeth has no living children to inherit the throne; upon his head the witches placed a "fruitless throne" (3.1.62).  Banquo's children will become a "line of kings" (3.1.61). 

Macbeth realizes two things: 1) He murdered Duncan for the throne which will cost him his imortal soul so that 2) Banquo (who has risked nothing) will be the father to many future kings. Macbeth also acknowledges that Banquo is daring, royal in nature, and wise in his valor--everything Macbeth is not and, therefore, a reasonable threat to his throne.  Since the the prophecy will no longer benefit himself, he begins at this point to try to foil the prophecy and to secure the throne for himself by having Banquo and his son killed.

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In Act III, Scene I, Macbeth is beginning to feel the effects of his newly acquired power.  His attitude is one of smug satisfaction at being crowned and he is planning a banquet, which is both the high point of his time as king and the beginning of his descent into madness.

In his speech in this scene, he shares conversation with Banquo about the two murderers, referring to Malcolm and Donalbain.

"We hear our bloody cousins are be-
In England and in Ireland, not confessing
Their cruel parricide, filling their hearers"
Act III, Scene I

After dismissing Banquo, jealousy pours out of Macbeth at the fact that he has no son.  He is projecting his kingdom into the future and sees nothing but Banquo's heirs on the throne.

"Upon my head they plac'd a fruitless crown,
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,
Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If't be so,
For Banquo's issue have I fil'd my mind;
For them the gracious Duncan have I murder'd;" Act III, Scene I

He works himself into a raging fury as he interrogates two men he has summoned to kill Banquo and Fleance.  The speech is particularly sad, because Macbeth is losing touch with his humanity.  He is cutting ties with his very dear friend Banquo and succumbing to a false sense of power that demands he protect his crown, as if he could fend off every possible threat by murder.

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Macbeth feels worry and anxiety concerning Banquo: "Our fears in Banquo stick deep." Macbeth fears Banquo's "royalty of nature"; that is, Banquo also heard the witches' predictions and Macbeth fears Banquo is too honorable of a man to follow Macbeth in his treachery. Also, the witches "hailed him [Banquo] father to a line of kings." Macbeth, then, also has another concern; he is afraid Banquo's sons will inherit the throne from him!

Macbeth ends this soliloquy angry at Banquo with the thought that he has "the gracious Duncan...murdered" for Banquo and not himself. Rationalization at its best, don't you think?

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