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The three witches greet Macbeth with the titles Thane of Glamis and Cawdor and announce that he will be 'king hereafter'. At this point, Macbeth only holds the title, Thane of Glamis and that of Cawdor has yet to be bestowed upon him. The witches' grand greeting, especially the fact that he will soon be king, makes such a deep impression on him that Banquo comments that he seems frightened and overcome so much that he is totally enraptured - 'rapt withal'.
Banquo asks why they make such great predictions with regard to Macbeth yet say nothing to him who neither seeks nor fears their favour or their hate.
The witches then greet Banquo. The first witch states that he shall be, 'lesser than Macbeth and greater.' The second witch tells Banquo that he is, 'not so happy, yet much happier', whilst the third informs him that, 'thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.
Their remarks about Macbeth are direct whilst those to Banquo are statements of paradox and equivocation. Their comments seem contradictory. The truth of what they say, however, becomes clear as the play progresses.
Banquo is lesser than Macbeth firstly, in title and rank and secondly, when Macbeth becomes king, he becomes his subject. Banquo though, dies with his honour and integrity intact when Macbeth has him murdered. Banquo is, in this sense greater, since Macbeth, through his tyranny and blood-thirst loses all honour, respect and integrity.
Secondly, Banquo is not as fortunate as Macbeth in being awarded titles, and therefore, not so happy. He is also unhappy at the murder of his king, whilst Macbeth advances to the throne after Duncan's death. In addition, Banquo is callously murdered. Banquo's death brings him peace, since he dies without a stain on his conscience. Macbeth, on the other hand, is not happy at all after he has murdered Duncan and claimed the throne. He is plagued by nightmare and visions and cannot sleep. His conscience gnaws at him and his wife commits suicide out of guilt. Macbeth becomes paranoid and sees threats everywhere. Truly, an unhappy man!
Because of his untimely death, Banquo obviously never becomes king. His son, Fleance, though, evades the murderers whom Macbeth had sent. Fleance is therefore able to continue his father's bloodline and his heirs later do become kings (King James 1 is believed to have descended from this bloodline).
Macbeth, though, dies an ignominious death, and does not leave an heir - his bloodline dies with him.
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