Extended Character Analysis
Banquo is a general in the Scottish army and Macbeth’s friend. He is with Macbeth when the witches deliver their prophecy. When he asks them to tell him about his own future, they inform him that though he will never be king, his children will be. Ever the loyal kinsman, Banquo refuses to assist Macbeth in his plot against the king and views the witches as evil beings. However, their prophecy with regards to Banquo’s children becoming kings is enough to pique Banquo’s curiosity, even as it puts him and his son, Fleance, within the dangerous territory of Macbeth’s ambition. Ultimately, Banquo dies in defense of his son, ensuring that his legacy continues at the cost of his own life.
Banquo is at first suspicious of the witches, believing them to be instruments of darkness. However, in act II, scene I, it is made clear that Banquo is not entirely without ambitions of his own. His dreams have been plagued by “cursed thoughts” to the point that he has to entrust his weapons to Fleance. The implication is that Banquo has also considered murdering Duncan. This interpretation is further supported by Banquo’s musings in act III, scene I, which seem to indicate a readiness to serve Macbeth and benefit from Macbeth’s foul deeds.
Banquo’s primary role in the play is as a foil to Macbeth. Macbeth and Banquo both hear tantalizing prophecies about the future that stoke their ambitions. However, while Macbeth turns to evil in order to make the prophecies come true, Banquo maintains enough personal integrity to resist temptation. Banquo is wary of Macbeth after hearing the prophecy, realizing that his own “cursed thoughts” with regards to Duncan are also plaguing Macbeth. Due to his knowledge of the witches’ prophecies, Banquo is among the first to suspect Macbeth of the murders. However, rather than telling his suspicions to the other Scottish lords, Banquo remains silent, indicating a degree of moral ambiguity. Banquo is too good of a man to kill his king, but he is not so good of a man that he can disdain such a tantalizing prophecy entirely.
The nature of Banquo’s ghost is up for interpretation. By one reading, the ghost is a literal manifestation of Banquo, come to haunt Macbeth for his part in...
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