How does Shakespeare present the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo in Act 3 Scene 1 of Macbeth?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the beginning of the play, Macbeth and Banquo seem to be good friends.  However, by Act 3 they are just keeping up appearances.  Each is suspicious of the other.

Banquo is suspicious of Macbeth.

Banquo used to respect Macbeth, but he is a clever man.  He was there when the witches told both of them that Macbeth would be king.  He worries that Macbeth wanted to be king so badly that he did something terrible and killed Duncan when he didn’t get what he wanted.

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

As the weird women promised, and I fear

Thou play'dst most foully for't: (Act 3, Scene 1, enotes etext p. 40)

Banquo goes on to comment that everybody is speaking highly of Macbeth and “their speeches shine” (p. 40), but they are in for a surprise because what they think is not really true.

Banquo begins to wonder if Macbeth is out to get him.  After all, he was told by the witches that his sons would be kings.  This makes him a threat.

Let your Highness

Command upon me, to the which my duties

Are with a most indissoluble tie

Forever knit.(20)  (Act 3, Scene 1, enotes etext p. 40)

Banquo goes out of his way to demonstrate that he is a friend still, and a faithful subject.

Macbeth is worried about Banquo.

Banquo has every right to wonder about Macbeth, because while he is acting like a friend he is plotting to kill Banquo.

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 fear'd. (Act 2, Scene 1, p. 42)

Macbeth is basically saying that it is all fine and good to be king, but you have to be safe.  Banquo, since his sons will be king, is a threat.  Macbeth no longer cares about their friendship.  He arranges to have Banquo and his son murdered.  He is actually only asking what Banquo will be doing not to be friendly, but to know where to send the murderers.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Banquo's private comments at the beginning of the scene concerning Macbeth's status as king reveal that he is suspicious of Macbeth. Banquo suspects that Macbeth played a role in King Duncan's assassination and clearly does not trust him. The fact that Banquo is careful to keep his thoughts to himself indicates his distance from Macbeth.

When Macbeth enters the scene, he feigns friendship with Banquo by cordially inviting him to his feast later that night. Macbeth urges Banquo to ride quickly through the night so that he doesn't miss the important meal. Immediately after Banquo leaves, Macbeth reveals his negative feelings towards him. Macbeth mentions that he fears Banquo and views him as his adversary. Macbeth does not want Banquo's descendants inheriting the throne and hires assassins to kill Banquo and Fleance that night. Towards the end of the scene, Macbeth reveals the extent of his animosity towards Banquo by ordering assassins to murder him. After telling the assassins that Banquo is their enemy, Macbeth says,

So is he mine; and in such bloody distance That every minute of his being thrusts Against my near’st of life. (Shakespeare, 3.1.119-121)

Overall, Shakespeare presents Banquo and Macbeth's relationship as strained in act 3, scene 1. Both characters do not trust each other, and Macbeth is even willing to murder Banquo in order to solidify his reign.