In "Macbeth", what predictions do the witches make about Banquo?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first and only time the Weird Sisters interact with Banquo, they tell him,

Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.  (1.3.68)

In other words, then, Banquo will never be king himself -- as Macbeth will -- but those in his line of descendants will be kings.  In this way, he is lesser than Macbeth because he will never be king, but he is also greater than Macbeth because he will sire children who will sire children who will be kings.  His line will live on, though Macbeth's will die.  Banquo will not be as happy as Macbeth because he will not rule himself.  However, he will be happier than Macbeth for the same reason that he will be greater.

Though Banquo never again interacts with the Weird Sisters, they do provide yet another prophecy regarding Banquo when Macbeth visits them a second time.  Macbeth asks if Banquo's "issue [will] ever / Reign in this kingdom" (4.1.108).  The witches answer him by showing him a line of eight kings, the last one holding a mirror.  Each of these eight kings bears some physical resemblance to Banquo, and then, finally, the ghost of Banquo, bloodied from his murder, smiles at Macbeth and "points at them for his" (4.1.129).  The mirror held by the last one seems to signify that Banquo's line will go on and on.

dneshan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act I, scene iii, Macbeth and Banquo go to visit the witches .  During this meeting, the prediction that the three witches make about Banquo is that his sons would be kings.  The first witch says, "Lesser than Macbeth, and greater." (Act I, scene iii)  The second says, "Not so happy, yet much happier." (Act I, scene iii). And the third witch finishes the prophecy when she states, "Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none: /So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!" (Act I, scene iii.)

jamesbarnes eNotes educator| Certified Educator

dneshan answers the main level of this question, but below the surface is the likelihood that Shakespeare's witches are far more conspiritors than they are simple fortune tellers. As the play unfolds, it is this very prediction that Banquo "shalt get Kings" that serves as the motivating drive for Macbeth's decision to murder his best friend. The theme of deception and twisted truths is at play in this seemingly simple and nearly--at the start--innocent prediction that even Banquo and Macbeth take lightly at first.

shebelby | Student

The 3 Witches recount to Macbeth three prophecies: 

  1. Thane of Glamis(he already is)
  2. Thane of Cordor
  3. King here after


Prophecies to Banquo:


1.Macbeth is great, but you are greater
2.You will be happier than Macbeth
3.You won't be king, but your children will be.

rlendensky | Student

The witches, used throughout Macbeth to foreshadow the events in the play, essentially tell Banquo that he will be less than Macbeth, but greater that he will be not as happy as Macbeth yet much happier and that he will be king even though there will be no king. These condradictory ominous statements eventually do come true in the concluding act of the novel.

As a side note, Macbeth also seeks the advice of the witches when they tell him to beware of Macduff.

nuha214 | Student

what two questions does macbeth ask the witches

nuha214 | Student

what three things do the witches tell macbeth