In Macbeth act III scene 4, upon returning to the banquet table, what does Macbeth see and how does he respond?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 4, Macbeth arrives to join the banquet table, only to see all the seats are full.  Lennox points out a seat, saying that it has been reserved for Macbeth.  To Macbeth's surprise, the 'empty' seat actually is occupied by the ghost of Banquo. 

Macbeth has only just learned that Banquo's murder has been successful.  For him suddenly to see the ghost of the man whose murder he arranged startles Macbeth.  He suspiciously reacts to the crowd at the table, accusing "which of you have done this?" (48)

Banquo's ghost, however, is not a practical joke or a set up, and Macbeth's guilt at having ordered the man's death overwhelms him.  He denies his role to the ghost, "thou canst say I did it; never shake thy gory locks at me" (46).  He refuses to take responsibility for his actions, even to the man he condemned to death. 

His reactions to the ghost, whom no one else can see, are so bizarre that Lady Macbeth has to pretend he is having a fit, merely to justify his erratic behavior to the dinner guests.


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