Act 3, scene 4: The Ghost of Banquo

Act 3, scene 4:
The Ghost of Banquo
What does this scene tell us about
• His anxieties are getting the best of him. Although he
seemed sure-footed in the previous few scenes, where he
was hiring murders to assassinate Banquo and Fleance, he
now seems incapable of hiding his guilt.
• Although Lady Macbeth appeared troubled by her own
guilt in the previous scene, she is, once again, in power, but
at this point her strength is in covering up the fears and
anxieties of her husband rather than telling him what to do.
She must explain to their banquet guests the strange
behaviours of Macbeth, his hallucinations being a strange
malady that he was been suffering from ‘since childhood’.
Internal Battle or Supernatural
• By the presence of Banquo’s ghost, the audience
is not explained whether the ghost haunts
Macbeth, as a supernatural being or whether it is
all in his head, a result of his beaten conscious
and unrelenting guilt.
• Metaphysical dread versus the Supernatural
(how many of their hallucinations / visions are
created by their guilt and how many are of
supernatural origins?)
What is the significance of it being
Banquo’s Ghost and not Duncan?
• Shakespeare uses Banquo as a moral pillar for Macbeth,
illustrating the righteous path, without bloodshed / deceit
or murder. Banquo is an example of the way Macbeth
should have reacted to the prophecies of the weird sisters,
he should have waited for fate to lead him to his destiny
rather than stepping in and making it for himself.
• At this point in the play, Macbeth is seen as corrupt, both
by the audience as well as by the other characters.
Macduff and Malcom have fled to England to seek help
King Edward, to rid Scotland of the evil, tyrant Macbeth.
Banquo is real?
• Shakespeare made his Banquo out to be an honourable
soldier with a strong moral standing, unlike the
interpretation by Raphael Holinshed who described
Banquo, in his historical chronicles, as an accomplice in the
murder of King Duncan. It has been speculated that
Shakespeare made slight changes to the character of
Banquo, to please King James I, who was thought to be a
descendent of the real Banquo.
• Shakespeare’s Banquo was given strong moral attributes,
standing in opposition to the character of Macbeth and his
dishonourable actions. Banquo is a foil to Macbeth.
Foil: a character in a work who, by sharp contrast,
serves to stress and highlight the distinctive
temperament of the protagonist.
Doubts prophecies and the
intentions of the witches
Accepts prophecies and looks to
help them come true
Believes that only bad things will
happen when one embraces evil
and dismisses acting on the
Places hope in the prediction that
he will become king
Prays to heaven for divine
Prays to evil powers for assistance
Loyal to King Duncan
Murders King Duncan

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