How does Macbeth persuade the murderers to kill Banquo in Macbeth?

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Macbeth persuades the murderers to kill Banquo by appealing to their self-interest. He tells them that Banquo is their enemy and to blame for their problems. He encourages them to believe their own lives will be better once Banquo—and his son Fleance—are gone. Macbeth says to the murderers that although they had thought he, Macbeth, was to blame for their problems, it was really Banquo, as he had explained to them the last time he saw them:

That it was he [Banquo], in the times past, which held you
So under fortune, which you thought had been
Our innocent self [me].
Macbeth, taking a page from his wife, then taunts the men, asking them if they are so "gospeled" that they will "pray" for the man who wronged them: in other words, are they so weak they will tolerate Banquo's wrongdoing without fighting back? They reply "no," they are men. Macbeth then says that like dogs, "men" come in many different breeds. It's not enough to say you are a man: you must prove you are the right kind of man. Macbeth states,
Now, if you have a station in the file,
Not i' th' worst rank of manhood, say ’t....
In other words, he appeals to their desire to be not to be considered the lowest of the low and implies that in murdering Banquo, they will prove their manhood.
Finally, Macbeth uses his status as king to persuade them to murder, saying he, the king, is of one mind with them in regarding Banquo as his enemy and will be most pleased if they get rid of this common foe.
We can see the extent to which Macbeth has lost his moral compass in this interchange. He has learned how to appeal to other people's basest instincts in order to manipulate them into doing what he wants.
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After successfully assassinating King Duncan and usurping the throne, Macbeth sets his sights on murdering Banquo and Fleance in order to prevent the Witches' prophecy regarding Banquo's descendants from coming to fruition. In act 3, scene 1, Macbeth meets with two murderers and motivates them to kill Banquo and his son by convincing them that Banquo is responsible for all their ills. Macbeth begins by blaming Banquo for their lowly station in life by saying that he was responsible for holding them "so under fortune." Macbeth proceeds to say,

This I made good to you In our last conference, passed in probation with you, How you were borne in hand, how crossed, the instruments.... (Shakespeare, 3.1.81-85)

According to this passage, Macbeth held a prior meeting offstage, where he explained the various ways Banquo wronged the murderers and elaborated on how he was solely responsible for undermining them. Shakespeare is rather vague on the specific ways Banquo has wronged the murderers, but it is apparent that they hold a grudge against him.

Macbeth continues to motivate the murderers to follow through with his nefarious plan by questioning their masculinity...

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and resolve. After the murderers express their desire to seek revenge, Macbeth once again reminds them that Banquo is their primary enemy and requests their help. Before the scene ends, Macbeth reminds them that killing Fleance is just as important as murdering Banquo.

Overall, Macbeth convinces the murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance by reminding them of the various ways Banquo has wronged them and is personally responsible for their demise and recent struggles. Macbeth also tests their masculinity and explains why he must rely on them to do his dirty work. Following their meeting, the murderers manage to kill Banquo, but Fleance escapes, which means that the Witches' prophecies might still come to fruition.

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Macbeth persuades the murderers to kill Banquo by telling them that Banquo is their enemy.

When we first see Macbeth with the murderers, he reminds them that he has already talked to them and explained everything to them.  Banquo is their enemy, not Macbeth.


That it was he, in the times past, which held you

So under fortune, which you thought had been

Our innocent self?  This I made good to you

In our last conference (Act 3, Scene 1)

Macbeth doesn’t explain exactly what it was that Banquo was supposed to have done to these murderers that made them so “unfortunate.”  Apparently he has been up to no good.  Shakespeare is a little vague one this.  It doesn’t matter.  I am pretty sure the murderers just want to get paid, and Macbeth is the king after all.  They are going to do what they are told.  Macbeth says Banquo is a bad guy, so Banquo is a bad guy.  Murderers tend to be not too particular in these matters.

Macbeth explains that he knows what kind of people they are, and he understands them.  He says that he is sick while Banquo is alive, and will be healthy when he is dead.  He then goes on to make it very clear to them.


Both of you

Know Banquo was your enemy.


True, my lord.


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)

Since they are murderers, he asks for their help, saying, “I to your assistance do make love.”  Of course, they say they would be happy to oblige.  What are friends in low places for?  Macbeth gives them the details and makes sure they know that they need to kill Fleance too, because Banquo’s son’s absence is “is no less material” to him than his father’s.

There are so many details to a murder!  Macbeth should know that by now.  His murderers kill Banquo successfully, but Fleance gets away, leading them to say, “We have lost best half of our affair” (Act 3, Scene 3).  Maybe Macbeth should not have planned everything himself, and left it to the professionals.  You kill one guy successfully and you think you’re an expert!

Macbeth killed Banquo because of the prophecy that his sons would be king, and because he thought Banquo was suspicious that Macbeth got his crown through less than proper ways.   Macbeth was right.  Banquo was suspicious.  Banquo's death will just be one in a long line for Macbeth, who finds that killing once is not enough to keep his throne.

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