How does Shakespeare present the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo in act 3, scene 1 of Macbeth?

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Macbeth and Banquo have always been firm friends and partners, though Banquo is very much the junior partner. The witches, however, hit on something fundamental when they hail Banquo as "lesser than Macbeth , and greater." In the battle at the beginning of the play, Banquo is everyone's second...

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Macbeth and Banquo have always been firm friends and partners, though Banquo is very much the junior partner. The witches, however, hit on something fundamental when they hail Banquo as "lesser than Macbeth, and greater." In the battle at the beginning of the play, Banquo is everyone's second thought, his name tacked on to that of Macbeth. Duncan, greeting them both, says that Banquo has "no less deserved." A less magnanimous man than Banquo might think that he certainly has "less received," since Macbeth has been made Thane of Cawdor as a reward for his service while Banquo was given nothing. When Banquo and Macbeth talk to the witches, however, Macbeth deigns to traffic and parley with them, while Banquo treats them with the aristocratic contempt one would expect of a high nobleman and a great warrior.

In act 3, scene 1, Banquo has finally come to suspect and distrust his old friend. He is not specific about what he thinks Macbeth has done, but he is afraid that he has played "most foully" for the crown. Neither does Banquo know what he will do. He merely hopes that, since the witches' prediction proved accurate for Macbeth, it will be equally true in his case.

There is a brief, courteous, and constrained public parting between the two former friends. It is a grim irony that Macbeth reminds Banquo to "fail not our feast" and that Banquo's final promise to Macbeth is that he will be there, a promise he keeps in the most spectacular fashion.

We then see the contrast between Macbeth and Banquo at its most extreme. Banquo, noble, generous, and not particularly decisive, clearly distrusts Macbeth at this point but does not make any plans to act on his suspicions. Macbeth, meanwhile, has already laid plans to have Banquo and Banquo's son murdered. As with the witches, this brings Macbeth into contact with the dregs of society—the sort of men with whom Banquo would never have any dealings. Perhaps Macbeth thinks of this when he addresses the murderers in tones dripping with contempt:

Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men;
As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,
Shoughs, water-rugs and demi-wolves, are clept
All by the name of dogs...

Though by this point in the play, the two men both distrust one another, Banquo has remained the same simple, honorable soldier he always was. He does not understand that the man who fought beside him is not only someone who has done an evil thing, but a thoroughgoing villain who has lost his honor. Macbeth's understanding of Banquo's noble character makes him hate Banquo all the more. Banquo, at this point in the play, is quite incapable of understanding Macbeth.

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Like just about everything else, Macbeth and Banquo's friendship has been poisoned by the Weird Sisters' prophecies. Whereas the two were once bosom buddies, now they no longer trust each other. Macbeth doesn't trust Banquo, because he sees him and his progeny as a threat to his throne. And Banquo doesn't trust Macbeth, as he's sure that he had something to do with Duncan's brutal murder. So by the time we get to act 3, scene 1, it's clear that there's some tension between the two former friends.

Not only does Macbeth not trust Banquo; he also fears him. As he openly admits—after Banquo's left the stage—Banquo is the only man he's afraid of. All other rivals to the throne can easily be taken of, but not him. Noble, intelligent, and with the wisdom not to take stupid risks, Banquo, as long as he's around, will continue to present a real danger to Macbeth's throne. Furthermore, Macbeth is mindful of the witches' prophecy, which predicted that Banquo's descendants would become kings of Scotland. This gives him even more reason to be afraid of Banquo.

So towards the end of the scene, Macbeth calls in a couple of his henchmen with the intention of getting them to murder his greatest and most dangerous rival.

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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.

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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.

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