Compare Macbeth and Banquo in act 1, scene 3 of Macbeth.

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In act 1, scene 3 of Macbeth, we begin to see how Banquo and Macbeth have different personalities because of how they react to the witches' prophecy.

Both are interested in hearing what the witches have to say, but from the start Macbeth reacts far more strongly to their predictions. Even before Macbeth knows their prophecy that he will become thane of Cawdor is true, he reacts when they claim he will become king. As Banquo says, watching his friend,

Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear

Things that do sound so fair?

From the start Banquo sees how emotionally Macbeth takes the prophecy about becoming king. Banquo is much more matter-of-fact about the witches' words, saying to them,

Speak, then, to me, who neither beg nor fear

Your favors nor your hate.

In contrast to Macbeth, Banquo is not one to fear them or beg more information from them. Because he is as ambitious, he takes it in stride when the witches tell him that his sons will be kings.

After the witches turn into bubbles and disappear, Ross and Angus arrive with the news that Duncan has made Macbeth the thane of Cawdor, fulfilling the first of the witches' prophecies. Macbeth has another very strong emotional reaction, as indicated by the exclamation point, and begins to believe he will be king:

Glamis, and thane of Cawdor!
The greatest is behind.
Banquo again is more matter-of-fact and tries to bring his friend down to earth, warning him not to trust the words of evil spirits. He says they deceive people on purpose by telling them small truths ("trifles") so that they will be conned into falling for bigger lies that matter more:

The instruments of darkness [the witches] tell us truths,

Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s

In deepest consequence.

Banquo is right and sensible to be wary of the witches. Macbeth, however, continues to have a deep emotional reaction, showing how badly he wants to be king. Unlike Banquo, the witches' words feed Macbeth's deepest, darkest desires, hitting a nerve. He is ambitious and yearns for the throne so badly that when it seems within reach, he immediately begins to think about murdering Duncan. He feels frightened at this point at what he has already begun to imagine:

Why do I yield to that suggestion

Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair

And make my seated heart knock at my ribs.

In other words, while he wants to kill Duncan, the thought also makes his hair stand on end and his heart pound wildly.

This scene shows that while both men take an interest in the prophecies, Macbeth takes them much more to heart. The two men's reactions foreshadow that Macbeth will take the evil path of treachery and murder, while Banquo will continue to behave in levelheaded ways.

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