The Contrast of Macbeth and Banquo
Thesis: Following the witches’ prophecies, Banquo reacts differently to Macbeth because he reacts faithfully, cautiously, and patiently.
Unlike Macbeth, Banquo remains faithful to King Duncan after hearing the witches’ prophecy. When Macbeth foreshadows his treacherous actions by telling Banquo that if he sticks with Macbeth it will be worth his while, Banquo responds by saying, “So I lose none in seeking to augment it, but still keep my bosom franchised and allegiance clear, I shall be counselled,” (2.1.26). Banquo’s response to Macbeth’s offer shows his truly loyal character because Banquo says that “as long as he can keep a clean conscience, he will gladly help Macbeth” (Notari). Banquo’s reply hints to Macbeth that he will not do anything morally incorrect or affect his allegiance to the king in order to fulfill the prophecies of the witches. On the other hand after hearing the prophecies, Macbeth’s hunger for power causes him to react in a subversive manner by killing King Duncan in an effort to take the thrown. Although unquestioning loyalty is expected of both Banquo and Macbeth, the two respond differently to the witches’ prophecies because Macbeth kills King Duncan whereas Banquo remains loyal to the king.
Banquo’s cautious reaction to the witches’ prophecy greatly contrast with Macbeth’s reaction. During the Macbeth’s and Banquo’s encounter with the witches, Banquo asks the witches, “What are these so wither'd and so wild in their attire, that look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, and yet are on't? Live you? Or are you aught that man may question” (1.3.140). Here, Banquo expresses doubt and distrust about the witches and their prophecies. Megan Kahlbaum, the creator of a website that analyzes Macbeth, says, “These questions tell us that Banquo is cautious”. Banquo’s guarded nature towards the witches is very different from Macbeth’s. Unlike Banquo during their encounter with the witches, Macbeth is fascinated by the witches and never stops to question the witches’ prophecies or their evil nature.
Following the witches’ prophecies, Banquo reacts differently to Macbeth because Banquo is patient whereas Macbeth is extremely aggressive. Following hearing the prophecies, Banquo says, “And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray ’s In deepest consequence”(1.3.125). Here Banquo notes how the witches will tell little truths while mostly lying which foreshadows his inactiveness to the witches’ prophecies. After hearing the witches’ prophecies, Macbeth immediately contemplates if and how he will become king foreshadowing his aggressiveness. Macbeth aggressive attempt to fulfill the witches’ prophecy eventually leads to him killing King Duncan and calling for the assassination of numerous others. Unlike Macbeth, Banquo never acts on the witches’ prophecies throughout the entire play. Banquo’s passive and inactive response is very dissimilar from Macbeth’s aggressiveness following the witches’ prophecies.
Kahlbaum, Megan. "Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 3 Analysis." Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 3 Analysis.
Weebly, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2015
Notari, Debbie. "Banquo in Macbeth: Character Analysis, Death & Characteristics."Education-
portal.com. Education Portal, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.
Different Reactions of Banquo and Macbeth
Thesis: When the witches tell Banquo and Macbeth the prophecies, each react and act differently in regards to their aggressiveness in fulfilling the prophecy, their morals, and the trust each has in the witches.
Once hearing the prophecy of Macbeth becoming King of Scotland after Thane of Cawdor and Banquo’s sons ruling too, Macbeth is far more aggressive in his reactions towards the prophecy than Banquo. For example, Macbeth’s newly acquired knowledge of Malcom being the heir to the throne becomes an incentive to fulfill the prophecy by deciding to murder the king. However, Banquo does not see this as reason to immediately act to put his son, Fleance, on the throne, which demonstrates his not taking part in the fulfillment. Also, Macbeth goes to extreme measures such as murdering multiple people in the name of the prophecy, while Banquo asks Macbeth to discuss the prophecy first before acting on it. These examples show that Macbeth actively pursues the fulfillment of the prophecy while Banquo passively lets it happen without his meddling.
While acting towards the fulfillment of the prophecy, Macbeth compromises his morality in order to become king of Scotland, unlike Banquo who remains steady in his judgment. As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan to kill King Duncan, Macbeth says, “in these cases we still have judgment here (Shakespeare),” meaning he knows what he is doing is wrong and will lead to great consequence, yet he proceeds with the killing. Also, Macbeth’s act of hiring murderers to kill Banquo instead of doing it himself shows that he is uncomfortable with killing a person, especially his close friend, but finds compromising means to do it anyway. On the other hand, Banquo is described as morally strong, acting as a foil to Macbeth’s wavering morality. Banquo does not do anything immoral to try to make the prophecy come true, even though his sons are predicted to come kings, while Macbeth has many people killed for his benefit.
Lastly, the intensities of trust each has in the witches’ prophecies differ, as Macbeth trusts the prophecy extremely and Banquo is skeptical. The trust Macbeth has in the prophecies is so great that it creates selective perception, which can be seen in the fact that he believes he is infallible because the prophecy says he will not be defeated until the forest called Birnam Wood meets with his castle, but neglects to consider the art of camouflage, which is what the men use to look like the forest but are actually advancing to kill Macbeth. This example reoccurs when the prophecy states that Macbeth will not be killed by “man who comes from woman (Shakespeare),” which allows him to neglect the fact that MacDuff was born from caesarean section, resulting in Macbeth’s being slain. However, Banquo wants to discuss the prophecy before placing any trust in it and tells Macbeth, “instruments of darkness tell us truths; win us with honest trifles, to betray in deepest consequence (Shakespeare),” meaning that there are consequences to these prophecies that need to be inspected. Macbeth’s trust ultimately leads to his detrimental reactions, and Banquo’s actions out of skepticism had potential to benefit him.