Why does Macbeth order the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance in Macbeth?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Macbeth has Banquo murdered because he knows that he is suspicious that Macbeth might have killed Duncan.  He also was told by the witches that Banqo’s sons would be king.  This is the reason why he kills Fleance as well.

Even though Macbeth kills Duncan and takes the throne, he does not feel peace.  He is worried that he will be suspected, and that Banquo knows too much.  Remember, Banquo was there when the witches made their prophecy about Macbeth being king, and they also made their prophecy about Banqo’s sons being king.

Our fears in Banquo

Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature

Reigns that which would be fear'd. (Act 3, Scene 1, enotes etext p. 42).

Macbeth considers Banquo a threat because the witches said his sons would be kings.  This annoys Macbeth, who says “they placed a fruitless crown” upon his head.

Macbeth makes sure the murders know Banquo is their enemy.

So is he mine, and in such bloody distance

That every minute of his being thrusts

Against my near'st of life: (Act 3, Scene 1, p. 44)

Macbeth cannot kill Banquo and Fleance himself, because they are friends and they have friends in common.  So he hires the murders to do it.  After all, to Macbeth“to be thus is nothing/But to be safely thus” (p. 42).  In other words, what is the point of being king unless he is safe from enemies and potential enemies?


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