The witches' prophecy that Banquo will beget a line of kings has Macbeth quite worried. Although Banquo has been a loyal friend, Macbeth decides to take fate into his own hands and have Banquo and his son, Fleance, murdered.
Act 3, scene 3 begins as dusk settles, bringing darkness to the landscape. The three murderers hide along the side of the road as they prepare to ambush Banquo and Fleance. As they dismount and begin walking their horses, Banquo and Fleance light a torch, so they can better find their way in the dark. Then the murderers strike. As Banquo is stabbed to death by one of the murderers, he shouts to his son to flee so that he can live to avenge him.
Foolishly, one of the murderers extinguishes the torch. The darkness this creates allows Fleance to escape into the night. There is some confusion among the murderers as to whether or not it was a good idea to put out the torch. They lament that they failed to complete their mission by only killing half of their intended targets. They then set off to inform Macbeth of what has happened.
Even though Macbeth has tried to prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, the survival of Fleance allows it to remain a possibility. This indicates that, even though he is now a powerful king, Macbeth has no power to control the fates.
In act 3, scene 3, Banquo and Fleance arrive at the palace stables on horseback for the evening banquet. Night is falling, and it has gotten dark. Banquo and Fleance, like most of the other guests, "park" their horses and then start to walk to the palace, holding a torch.
It is during this walk that the three murderers ambush them. When Banquo comments that it looks like it is going to rain, the murderers "rain" down on them. Banquo is mortally wounded, but one of the murderers blunders and puts out the "light" as Banquo cries out to Fleance to flee and stay alive so that he can get revenge later. With the light out, the murderers can't see to find Fleance, so he is able to escape unscathed.
The Third Murderer asks why the light was put out, and the First Murderer says, "Was ’t not the way?" or wasn't that the plan? There seems to be confusion, and it is not clear how both the lantern and the torch went out.
Failing to kill Fleance is a big mistake, but the murderers, who don't seem especially competent, don't seem particularly concerned about it as they go off to report to Macbeth that they did half the job.
Before the ambush takes place, the two murderers hired by Macbeth are joined by a third, who says he was also sent by Macbeth to assist them in the bloody crime. The three murderers wait for Banquo and Fleance to arrive from their nighttime ride, and both victims enter the stage, unaware of the murderers' presence. Banquo and his son dismount from their horses and enter the scene holding a torch. They have to walk close to a mile back to the castle, which is the perfect opportunity for the murderers to strike.
Shortly after dismounting, Banquo and Fleance begin their journey, and Banquo casually comments on the weather. The First Murderer says, "Let it pour," and the murderers suddenly ambush Banquo and his son. During the attack, the murderers' lanterns are extinguished, and Banquo cries out for his son to run. Although Banquo is slain, Fleance escapes with his life. After the attack, the Second Murderer comments that they've failed the "more important half" of their mission.
Fleance's escape is necessary for the prophecy regarding Banquo's descendants to be fulfilled. Once Macbeth discovers Fleance is still alive, he is disheartened by the news and recognizes his legacy remains in jeopardy. Banquo's ghost also haunts Macbeth during the feast, causing him to act irrational and anxious in front of the Scottish thanes.
In Act Three, Scene 3, three assassins who are hired by Macbeth meet to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance, near the palace at night. As Banquo and Fleance enter the scene holding a torch, the murderers attack Banquo, who screams for his son to flee. During the attack, the torch goes out, and Banquo dies from his wounds. However, Fleance is able to escape the attack and remain alive. Following the attack, the murderers realize that they have failed at their mission by only killing Banquo. In the next scene, the assassins break the news to Macbeth that they were unable to kill Fleance. Although Macbeth is happy that Banquo is dead, the fact that Fleance is alive worries him. Macbeth is concerned about the prophecy regarding Banquo's descendants coming true and realizes that Fleance can carry on the legacy of kings because he has escaped.
In Act III, Scene 3 Macbeth's hired murderers execute their plan to ambush Banquo and Fleance. The father and son approach, and Fleance carries a torch. As Banquo comments about possible rain, the first murderer springs into action, saying aloud "Let it come down" (14). The first murderer snuffs out Fleance's torch, plunging the lane into darkness while the other two murderers leap upon Banquo to kill him. Banquo cries out for Fleance to "fly, fly, fly, fly! Thoust mayst revenge" (15).
Fleance is able to escape in the dark, leaving the murderers to blame each other about their lack of success in completing the job.