Macbeth Act 3, Scene 1: Summary & Quotes

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson will begin with a brief recap of Act 2, Scene 4 of 'Macbeth'. We will then move on to a summary of Act 3, Scene 1, where Banquo considers the three witches' prophecies and King Macbeth sees Banquo as a threat.

Recap of Act 2, Scene 4

In Macbeth Act 2, Scene 4, Ross discussed the recent strange happening with an old man outside Macbeth's castle. After a few minutes, the two were joined by Macduff, who told Ross that Macbeth was on his way to Scone to be crowned king.

Macduff also told Ross that Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, were suspected of paying the attendants to kill Duncan. This explained why they quietly ran off right after Duncan's murder. Then, the men all said their goodbyes. Ross went to Scone, and Macduff went back home to Fife.

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  • 0:04 Recap of Act 2, Scene 4
  • 0:38 Banquo Thinks Back
  • 1:27 King Macbeth Enters
  • 2:01 King Macbeth Worries &…
  • 4:23 King Macbeth Makes Plans
  • 5:32 Lesson Summary
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Banquo Thinks Back

As we begin Act 3, Scene 1 of Macbeth, we find Banquo in the king's palace in Forres. Now that Macbeth is king, Banquo thinks back to the three witches' prophecies: ''Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all, As the weird women promised.'' Banquo realizes that all their prophecies about Macbeth have come true.

Banquo then wonders about the witches' prophecy about himself: ''That myself should be the root and father Of many kings.'' He recalls that the witches said his children will be king. So he wonders, ''Why, by the verities on thee made good, May they not be my oracles as well And set me up in hope?''

Since Macbeth's prophecies all came true, will the prophecies about Banquo come true as well?

Macbeth and Banquo meet the three witches
Banquo, Macbeth, and the three witches

King Macbeth Enters

Macbeth enters, now dressed as king. Lady Macbeth also comes in, now dressed as queen. They both greet Banquo. King Macbeth invites Banquo to a great formal dinner he is having that evening. Banquo accepts, but says he is first going for a ride with his son Fleance.

King Macbeth tells Banquo that he needs his advice: ''We should have else desired your good advice, Which still hath been both grave and prosperous, In this day's council.'' The king has asked Banquo's advice before because he has always been helpful.

King Macbeth Worries & Thinks Aloud

Banquo's history of good counsel is why King Macbeth tells Banquo to make sure and attend the dinner. He then explains what he needs Banquo's advice on: ''We hear our bloody cousins are bestow'd In England and in Ireland, not confessing their cruel parricide, filling their hearers With strange invention.''

It seems that Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, have run away to England and Ireland, but not only have they not owned up to Duncan's murder, they also have been telling false stories to anyone who will listen. This is the matter for which King Macbeth needs advice.

Banquo leaves to go on his ride with his son Fleance. King Macbeth then dismisses everyone until the formal dinner that night. Meanwhile, two men have been waiting outside the palace gates to see the king. Macbeth asks an attendant to bring them in.

As the attendants are fetching the men, King Macbeth starts a soliloquy, speaking his thoughts aloud: ''Our fears in Banquo Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature Reigns that which would be fear'd.'' King Macbeth is afraid of Banquo. In fact, the King fears Banquo more than anyone else. ''There is none but he Whose being I do fear.'' And he has good reason for this extreme fear. King Macbeth also remembers the witches' prophecy about Banquo's sons becoming kings.

The king compares that prophecy to his own situation. ''Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown And put a barren sceptre in my gripe.'' King Macbeth realizes that the witches did not foresee an heir for him. Therefore, his crown and scepter - a decorated walking stick - are his alone.

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