The banquet (Act 3, Scene 4)
Why is Macbeth so tense and anxious as he enters the banquet?
It's important to think about this point because it will help you to understand how his mind could conjure up the terrible image of the ghost.
- Macbeth is sick with worry and guilt about Banquo's murder. This is important. Banquo was his best friend, and Macbeth has ordered him to be killed. He needed both Banquo and Fleance dead, but Fleance has escaped. This throws Macbeth into a panic.
- Macbeth is acting secretly. He is not communicating with Lady Macbeth. This is a very important point. Macbeth has started to exclude his wife from his decisions. Acting alone puts extra pressure on him - and on their relationship.
- The banquet is supposed to confirm Macbeth as a fitting king. This is the first public function since Macbeth's coronation, and he needs the important guests, who are potentially his enemies, to feel at ease because he is in control. When it starts to go wrong, he is desperate to calm them.
What is the effect of the ghost on Macbeth?
Macbeth's reaction shows three distinct phases - it's important that you follow them through.
- He is terrified and cowers from it. At first Macbeth is terrified, because he simply cannot understand the reappearance of Banquo. Why do the dead not stay dead?
- He challenges it. The second time the ghost appears, Macbeth takes it on - he confronts the ghost to overcome his feelings of terror and guilt. He seems to win - the ghost disappears.
- Macbeth puts his faith in the supernatural: his marriage is no longer the source of his strength. This is a real turning point. It's as if he gives up trying to control things, and makes up his mind to go back to the witches. It's an admission he is beaten. We seem to know that the play will end tragically from this point.
Macbeth Act 3 scene 4 (pt 2/3) - Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost