How does Shakespeare use language to present the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo in Act 3 of Macbeth?I know the relationship a little bit but I am really not sure how Shakespeare shows us...

How does Shakespeare use language to present the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo in Act 3 of Macbeth?

I know the relationship a little bit but I am really not sure how Shakespeare shows us this relationship and the lanuage used to show this relationship.

Asked on by jerksi

1 Answer | Add Yours

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

One way that Shakespeare uses language to present the relationship between Banquo and Macbeth is with allusion to earlier scenes and other plays, and use of pronouns.

In the beginning of the play, the witches greet us with this line.

Fair is foul, and foul is fair. (Act 1, Scene 1, enotes etext p. 8)

Of course, Banquo and Macbeth later encounter the witches.  When Banquo shares his suspicions, he says to himself.

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, p. 10)

This is an allusion by Shakespeare back to the witches, and a play on words because the witches told us that fair would turn to foul, as it appears Macbeth has done.

This careful use of language continues.  In Act 1, Banquo reacts to the witches by wondering if he and Macbeth are hallucinating.

Were such things here as we do speak about?

Or have we eaten on the insane root

That takes the reason prisoner? (Act 1, Scene 3, p. 14)

Banquo uses the first person plural here, “we,” in order to involve both himself and Macbeth.  Later, he tries to include Macbeth in the conversation about the witches again, but Macbeth denies having thought of them.

I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters:

To you they have show'd some truth.(25) (Act 2, Scene 1, p. 27)

Macbeth rebuffs Banquo, saying he has not thought about the witches since then.  In this case, Banquo is trying to feel Macbeth out, and approach his suspicions head-on.  However, Macbeth will have none of it.  Banquo says “you” to Macbeth, meaning the witches showed Macbeth, and not Banquo, some “truth” about being Thane of Cawdor.  The focus is beginning to switch, from “we” to “you”.  This demonstrates that their relationship is starting to deteriorate.

Soon, Macbeth does not trust Banquo at all.  He compares Banquo to Mark Antony, and himself to Caesar.  He is sure Banquo will betray him, so he betrays him first.

He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valor

To act in safety. There is none but he

Whose being I do fear; and under him

My genius is rebuked…  (Act 3, Scene 1, p. 42)

This allusion to Mark Antony and Caesar is ironic, because he is the one who will betray Banquo.  He says that Banquo is the only one who can stop him, so he is ready to have Banquo murdered.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,991 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question