What are the important quotes in Macbeth, act 3 and their significance?

Quick answer:

Act 3 of Macbeth contains many important quotations which indicate Macbeth's concern that his luck is turning against him. For example, he worries that "to be thus is nothing, / But to be safely thus." He knows that "blood will have blood" and actions have consequences. Although he tries to remain confident, Macbeth worries about his future as king since his enemies can easily take away the throne, just as he stole it from Duncan.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In act 3, Macbeth officially assumes the position of king, but the more power he gets, the more insecure he feels. He worries about losing the crown that he killed for. His fear that someone will figure out that he murdered Duncan expands into paranoia. As Macbeth frets about the...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

weird sisters’ prophecies coming true, he even turns on his friendBanquo.

In act 3, scene 1, one important quote concerns the extremity of his new suspicion of Banquo. He decides to have him and his son killed so that his successors will not form a royal lineage as was prophesied. Macbeth bemoans the fact that he has no children to succeed him:

Upon my head they [the witches] placed a fruitless crown

And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,

Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,

No son of mine succeeding.

Later in the act, several related quotes emphasizes the theme of blood that runs through the play. In scene 4, after the murderers have killed Banquo, Macbeth sees his ghost seated at the banquet table. As Lady Macbeth tries to make excuses to the guests about his odd behavior, the terrified Macbeth addresses the ghost. At one point, he orders him to leave:

Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!

Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;

Thou hast no speculation in those eyes

Which thou dost glare with.

After the ghost does leave and the banquet ends, Macbeth speaks with his wife. He shares his fear that the ghost will come back seeking to avenge his death by killing Macbeth:

It [the ghost] will have blood: they say blood will have blood.

He speculates about unnatural or fantastic phenomena, such as talking trees, that might be "augures" (omens) of the return of “[t]he secret’st man of blood.”

As the scene ends, he tells his wife that he no longer cares how many people he must kill to stay in power; he has passed a point of no return

I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One important quotation in act 3 of Macbeth is spoken by Macbeth himself: “To be thus is nothing, / But to be safely thus.” Macbeth recognizes that while he does have the crown, he has obtained it by false means and therefore is subject to losing it. If someone discovers his treachery, he will lose. His main concern is his good friend Banquo, who he identifies as a threat since he knows about the witches’ prophecies and he knows his friend Macbeth. In addition, since Banquo received an even better prophecy than Macbeth (that he would father an entire line of royalty), Macbeth views Banquo as an enemy now. The quotation begins Macbeth’s soliloquy in which he expresses his fears about Banquo and about his own future. He recognizes that he has a “barren scepter” in that he has no children to succeed him on the throne; in Macbeth’s eyes, Banquo has trumped him. It is directly after this soliloquy that Macbeth speaks to and hires the murderers to eliminate Banquo and his son.

Macbeth has taken terrible steps to get what he wants, but he is not safe. He tells Lady Macbeth “We have scotched the snake, not killed it.” He cannot rest on his newly-acquired throne because there is always the danger of someone coming after him. He has killed the king, but Duncan’s sons are alive and pose the threat of revenge. Macbeth sees now that killing the king only brings him more trouble. He does not sleep and has nightmares, and he lives with the knowledge of what he has done and the fear of retaliation. He admits to his wife that Duncan is the winner since he is safely slumbering in his grave; Macbeth has no such peace.

While he continues to act coldly and murder innocent people, Macbeth wrestles with his conscience and fears. “It will have blood, they say: blood will have blood.” Banquo’s ghost has forced Macbeth to look into himself and he is very afraid of what he sees. He also knows he is not safe because people are beginning to take sides against him. For instance, he worries about Macduff’s absence at the banquet:

The son of Duncan

From whom this tyrant holds the due of birth,

Lives in the English court, and is received

Of the most pious Edward with such grace

That the malevolence of fortune nothing

Takes from his high respect. Thither Macduff

Is gone to pray the holy King upon his aid

To wake Northumberland and warlike Siward.

Macbeth is correct to worry. Macduff has gone to find reinforcements to oust the murderer and restore the rightful king to the throne.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Act 3 is a very important act in terms of transition.  By this time, Macbeth has been visited by the witches and urged by Lady Macbeth to kill Duncan.  The king’s legitimate heirs to the throne, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee.  Macbeth takes the throne, and everything should be good.  He has what he wants, yet he is not able to rest.

The scene opens with Banquo’s comments that he worries Macbeth might have done something terrible in order to be king.

Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all,

As the weird women promised, and I fear

Thou play'dst most foully for't: (Act 3, Scene 1, enotes pdf. p. 40)

This quote is important because it demonstrates that Macbeth cannot rest easily yet, and foreshadows trouble for him later.  It also shows trouble for Banquo, and it isn’t long before Macbeth has him murdered.

Another important quote is also in Act 3, Scene 1.

To be thus is nothing,

But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo

Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature

Reigns that which would be fear'd. (p. 42)

You see that Banquo is suspicious of Macbeth, and Macbeth is suspicious of Banquo.  This is not the only reason why Macbeth has him killed.  The witches have predicted that Banquo’s sons will be king, and Macbeth figures the easiest way to prevent that is to kill Banquo.

Lady Macbeth also has something to say about this.

Nought's had, all's spent,

Where our desire is got without content.

’Tis safer to be that which we destroy

Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy. (Act 3, Scene 2, p. 45)

Lady Macbeth pushed her husband to kill Duncan and become king, as the witches predicted, but she wants him to stop there.  Basically, she is annoyed that he can’t be happy with what he has, and she is worried that he is going to cause more trouble.  Her fears are realized when Macbeth tells her “We have scotch'd the snake, not kill'd it” (p. 45).  Macbeth tells her not to worry about anything, he will take care of it all.

Approved by eNotes Editorial