In Macbeth, Lennox uses a sarcastic tone in act 3, scene 6. Why is this an appropriate tone to allude to Macbeth's character?

Lennox’s sarcastic tone in act 3, scene 6 of Macbeth is appropriate because Macbeth is actually guilty of a number of terrible crimes. Such a harsh and ironic tone seems well suited to a ruthless and disloyal tyrant such as him. Further, Lennox protects himself by actually saying words that seem complimentary to the king. He cannot be accused of treason against the king because he isn’t actually saying anything negative about Macbeth.

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Lennox's use of a sarcastic tone to describe Macbeth's character is appropriate because, with Banquo's death, it is clear to those who are paying attention that Macbeth has overstepped all bounds of decency and will kill anyone he fears as a threat. When he is not being sarcastic, Lennox calls Macbeth a "tyrant," a term which means a ruler who has abandoned God's moral justice and is doing whatever he wants. Lennox shows that he knows what is going with Macbeth when he mocks the king's lame explanation for Banquo's death, saying
Men must not walk too late.
This sarcasm shows that Lennox understands fully that Banquo was not, in reality, murdered because he was out late at night but killed by Macbeth's hired assassins for knowing too much. Lennox realizes, too, that if Macbeth will kill Banquo, his once close friend, he will kill anyone.
He also mocks what Macbeth has put out as the official story behind Duncan's death:
Who cannot want the thought how monstrous
It was for Malcolm and for Donalbain
To kill their gracious father?
Lennox means the opposite of what he says above: it was monstrous for Macbeth to kill their father.
Putting out the story that the sons were the murderers and exiling them is also treated sarcastically by Lennox. It was not noble, but treacherous and underhanded, but Lennox asks, sarcastically:
Was not that nobly done?
In this short, Shakespeare scene pulls away from the close and intense focus on Macbeth and Macbeth's thought and perceptions. Shakespeare shows that Macbeth's justifications and rationalization for his murderous acts are perceived differently by others. This scene helps reveal that Macbeth is making a mess of his reign and alienating those around him, paving the way for the audience to understand why civil war would break out in Scotland.
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Lennox speaks sarcastically to another lord, commenting on how close Macbeth was to both Duncan and Banquo, both of whom have been murdered, and how much Macbeth has benefited, at least from Duncan’s demise. This tone is appropriate here for a number of reasons. First, his actual words would seem to praise Macbeth; if someone were to inform on Lennox’s speech to Macbeth, Lennox would not technically have said anything against the king. According to his words, Macbeth’s killing of Duncan’s (supposedly) guilty chamberlains was “nobly done” and “wisely, too” (3.6.15). No one would be able to report on Lennox’s language and call him a traitor to the king because the actual words he speaks are complimentary.

On the other hand, Lennox’s sarcasm and verbal irony are appropriate because he does think that Macbeth is guilty of the murders of Duncan and Banquo. He suggests, via verbal irony, that Macbeth would murder Malcolm and Donalbain too, if he could, by literally stating that, if they were under Macbeth’s roof, “they should find / What ‘twere kill a father” (3.6.20–21); in other words, they would learn what it is like to be treated as though they’d killed their father. He has seen Macbeth react to Banquo’s ghost, and, from the things Macbeth said, it would sound to everyone near him that he was speaking to the ghost of someone for whose death he is responsible; at the time, the lords only knew about Duncan’s death, so Lennox likely came to correct conclusions about Macbeth’s involvement.

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In Act II of "Macbeth," it is Ross and Lennox who arrive at Macbeth's castle after Duncan is murdered.  Based upon his initial survery of the king's quarters there, Lennox surmises that Macbeth's chamberlains are responsible for the murder.  Then, in Act III Lennox appears again at the banquet for Macbeth.  However, Macbeth is disturbed by the sight of Banquo's ghost, saying odd things and acting strange.  Lady Macbeth scolds her husband for "breaking the mirth," but Macbeth expresses his fears.  And, when Ross asks Macbeth of what he is afraid, Macbeth rushes and Lennox calls out,

Good night; and better health/Attend his Majesty! (III,iv, 122-123)

This line seems rather ironic, if not sarcastic, since Lennox suspects Macbeth of the murders of Duncan and Banquo.  So, when he speaks in III,vi, it is with sarcasm because the others should be able to perceive the real Macbeth as Lennox does. 

The gracious Duncan/Was pitied of Macbeth:  marry, he was dead./And the right-valiant Banquo walked too late;/Whom you may say, if 't please you, Fleance killed,/For Fleance fled.  Men must not walk too late. 

Lennox urges the lord to draw his own conclusions.  Macbeth has been near both Duncan and Banquo when they die; how odd, he asks sarcastically, would it have been for Malcom and Donalbain to have killed their "gracious father"?  And how, asks Lennox, did Macbeth react?  Has he not "borne" things well?  And, continues Lennox, if Duncan's sons were here, Macbeth would show  them "what it is to kill a father."  Lennox simply cannot understand why the others do no perceive  the evil Macbeth for the villain that he is.

 

 

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