Act 3, Scene 4 is a very important and effective scene and is a turning point for the rest of the play.
Immediately before the scene was the murder of Banquo, one of Macbeths closest Conrad. And because of this relationship the two had, it makes it an evil and horrible murder as it was Macbeth who demanded it happened. It’s a new type of evil and Macbeths second and deepest step to evil yet.
This scene is a build up to the one that follows, and creates dramatic tension as the audience asks will Macbeth find it hard to concede guilt and will there be any concience to the evil being that sometime we feel sorry for, Macbeth.
The Banquet scene is a total contrast to the one before. Good order in the kingdom will be shown if the banquet goes well, Macbeths fait will also be crystal clear by the end and what his future will be, if any at all.
This scene “symbolises the last supper” in which Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, “Judas.” It’s as if we now what’s about to happen. It’s the last time Macbeth will ever sit down with his allies and friends to share food in perfect harmony.
Some questions are also brought up in this scene. How will the lords react to Macbeth as the unnatural king of Scotland? And will Macbeth be able to cope with his stained guilt.
In the versions that I have seen on screen the banquet scene always seems to start with a sombre atmosphere and this atmosphere is tainted right from the start by the entrance of the murderers.
“I am cabined, cribbed, confined, bound is
To saucy doubts and fears…”
Macbeth says. Even at the banquet that he has arranged he is surrounded by his evil sins. His guilt has become even harder to conceal. One of the murderers even has blood on his face.
It’s ironic though because as the murderers entered Macbeth was trying to present himself as a leader in control. And even when Macbeth seems to have order established again something else happens, he can’t control the banquet so how can he control a country.
Macbeth has become trapped and he is not sorry, in fact he’s self-pitying,
“I had else been perfect”
Macbeth’s fear is conveyed by the powerful rhythm of the poetry on lines 21 to 25. It very strong with one constant beat after another. To me it represents the beating of a heart, which is strong but dies with
But Banquo’s safe”
The Banquet must go on thought, Macbeth must attempt to create order, which he has already lost at his banquet and asks
“Sit down in order of ranks”
Tension is increases even more by Lady Macbeth calling Macbeth back to the banquet table. She’s trying to hide Macbeth’s strange behaviour but instead attracts more.
“My royal lord,
You do not give the cheer;”
Not only is lady Macbeth breaking into his thoughts she also tries to bring him back to reality, reminding him of his public duties. Is a man who has private fear able to carry out public duties?
The fears I talk about are those that were created from the very beginning with the witched prophecies.
“All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis”
“All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor”
“All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King here after”
After this Macbeth’s world is turned up side down, as he will do anything to achieve the title, which were predicted. Some were given to him others he murdered for. Including his very first, Duncan, the authorisation of the murder of Banquo and later on the authorisation of the murder of Macduffs family.
All these murders relate to the Banquet scene because all of his dangerous deeds especially the murder of his conrad Banquo, cause his later to hallucinate the ghost of Banquo. These hallucinations make the hole of Scotland believe he is insane and unable to rule the hole of the land.
Shakespeare creates a cue for the first appearance of Banquo’s ghost, this cue is when Macbeths lies and pretends he doesn’t now of the murder of Banquo.
“Were the graced person of Banquo present
Who may I rather challenge for unkindness
Than pity for mischance”
He’s summoning in a way for Banquo’s ghost to appear as he tries to hide the guilt of what he’s done.
When the ghost does appear the dramatic device of an “empty” chair could be used. Every time the play is produced, the director has to decide weather to leave the chair “empty” or fill it with the deceased Banquo. Both have their advantages.
An “empty” chair would of made Macbeth seem just as or even more insane than Shakespeare would of intended. It would also give the audience the same feeling as those at the banquet not quite knowing what he’s doing. The imaginations of the audience would be used a lot more if the chair were left “empty” which could be a good or a bad thing.
Where as if the character were shown it would become very clear what was happening and exactly as the director feels it should be. It may become a slight farce though.
In my opinion an empty chair give the best effect as it creates tension and if Macbeth is played well then portrays his madness in the way I believe Shakespeare intended it to be.
When Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo his behaviour changes, he starts act differently and seems to start behaving as if he was going insane. Lady Macbeth though only shows scorn towards her husband manner.
“This is the very painting of your fear;
This is the air drawn dagger which you said
Led you to Duncan, O, These flaws and starts”
She is looking down on him and reflects an important these in the play of how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are being slowly torn apart and is slowly driving Lady Macbeth insane as well.
It’s ironic because Macbeth goes from being manipulates by Lady Macbeth, an example being where he murders Duncan,
“But screw your courage to the sticking place
And we’ll not fail.”
To where he is driving her mad with his behaviour.
Another theme which, is echoed here is when Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth,
“Are you a man”
Throughout the play there is the theme of what it takes to be a man.
“When you durst do it, then you were a man”
is another example of it. This is in Act 1 scene 7 in which Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth is he murder’s Duncan then he will be a man. Here again she is controlling Macbeth.
So why is Macbeth the only person to see the ghost of Banquo? I believe it’s because Macbeths the only one with lots of guilt and a dirty concience. I think that Macbeth is hallucinating. In Shakespearean times though many people would have believed in the existence of creatures such as ghosts, many more than those who do today. Those who do believe would possibly say that because Macbeth was the one who was behind the crime then Banquo came back to haunt him and no one else.
Another theme in the play is unnatural disturbances in nature, this scene resurrects this theme. In Macbeth’s speech lines seventy-five to eighty-three he talks about how the raising of the dead is even stranger than a murder, how can an unnatural act of nature be even stranger than an unnatural act of a human being?
From the very beginning we hear of these unnatural acts from the witches speeches.
“If fair is foul then foul is fair”
This quote is also very relevant when we think about how once Macbeth became a hero in Scotland due to him being a good warrior and his victorious killings. But now he’s killing not in battle but in cold blood. It’s cold-blooded murder.
Back to the banquet though it’s essential we consider why every time Macbeth tries to pretend that there is nothing unnatural in his behaviour and tries to act like the true rightful king, the ghost appears. An example of this is,
“I have a strange infirmity which is nothing
To those that know me, come, love and health to all,
Then I’ll sit down, give me some wine; fill full”
Then the ghost of Banquo appears or is it Macbeth’s conscience, has his guilt and owns mind made him imagine the ghost. I believe that because Banquo was Macbeths closest Conrad, when he pretends nothings happened Banquo who is very angry and upset with Macbeth appears and makes his thoughts known.
Also as he tries to act as the true and rightful king he becomes more nervous and his behaviour start to drop below the normal. That’s exactly it “he’s acting like the true and rightful king”, he isn’t, he killed to get to the throne and now he’s there he can’t live with himself.
Shakespeare uses lots of devises to make the audience “see” what Macbeth is seeing. He uses metaphor paradoxes and outrageous descriptions.
“Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,
The arm’d rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger;”
“The baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery, hence!”
Are both fantastic examples of this. It draws the audience into the scene and makes them want to see what Macbeth is seeing, it makes the audience’s imaginations work and by Shakespeare using all of these wild metaphors its creates atmosphere and creates great imagery. It creates imagery of the ghost and also of Macbeth’s terror. There’s lots of strong angry metaphors and everything he says in this speech brings images to our minds. The theme of disturbances in nature is also mentioned as shown in my quotes above.
When the Banquet is brought to the end it is brought to an end with great significance. Lady Macbeth gives in realising Macbeth has failed in trying to show order in the Kingdom. She says,
“I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse;
Question enrages him. At once, good night:”
The banquet also ends in a total opposite way as it started, at the beginning Macbeths ask,
“You know your own degrees; sit down: at first
And last the hearty welcome.”
Where as when asking everyone to leave Lady Macbeth demands,
“Question enrages him. At once, good night:
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.”
The end of the banquet and the chaos during shows us many things, one being that those who are deemed strong for doing something such as killing in battle are very week when running a country which they do not deserve. Another being that Regicide creates disorder in a kingdom. As soon as law and order is demolished havoc is created. A modern day example of this is in Iraq, where after the fall of their leader, however right or wrong it was people started looting, murdering and started kidnapping hostages.
Macbeths speech line 122 to 126 bring out one of the themes of the play.
“It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood:”
This is a very important quote, it’s a paradox and is very similar to those of the witches at the beginning of the play.
“When the battle’s lost and won”
To put this into context it could be saying that Macbeth won the battle against the Norwegians and he won it for the King but as soon as he murdered he lost.
Nature is once again brought up as it is through out not only this scene but the whole play. Macbeths asks,
“By magot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret’st man of blood. What is the night?”
A moral which could be taken away from this scene could be If you do an evil deed you will pay in extraordinary ways, in this case through starting to go crazy and see ghosts. A very important thing that we must pay attention to is how Macbeth couldn’t hide his conscience, and how can you? It’s some that with you all the time and that can’t escape you, it’s like a plague as the only thing you can do to demolish it is it correct it.
There are also a lot of references to time,
“The secret’st man of blood. What is the night?”
“Almost at odds with morning, which is which.”
It’s as if they’re both saying what does it matter, they’ve become so detached from the real world there even getting confused with times. To Macbeth time is an ordeal as his conscience plays on him. Life is long and painful.
There is also lots of time referenced in act 5 scene 5,
“There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools”
Time means nothing to Macbeth.
Macbeth’s final speech in this scene dramatises the change that has been taking place in his character since the murder of Duncan.
Right from the witches’ prophecies he starts to change into the evil Macbeth we see nearer the end of the play. He goes from being a soldier loved by all to a dictator who keeps spies in all his nobleman’s homes.
“There’s not a one of them but in his house
I keep a servant feed”
Is how we now this. This tells us he doesn’t trust anyone, he’s suspicious and is showing a sign of weakness. It’s like soviet Russia of the 1980’s or Nazi Germany from the 1940’s.
He also says
“… I am in blood
stepped in so far that should wade no more”
This tells us that he’s got in so much trouble he can’t escape from what he has done, there’s no turning back and he can’t turn back the hand of time.
Macbeth isn’t going to feel any pity, as he hasn’t changed from what he’s become.
“We are yet but young in deed”.
He feels that he has started his reign of terror and that he has a long time left. He hasn’t learnt a thing.
This is a very dramatic line and one of the most important in this scene. Macbeth doesn’t see why he should make things better when he is already in very deep trouble with how he’s feeling and how his country is running. This is also a line where he concedes what he has done and has become and tells he has no control over him self.
This realisation plays on Lady Macbeth and is a key factor in driving her insane. The whole scene drives her insane and during Act 5 Scene 1 she says,
“… I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried; he cannot
She’s referring back to Act 3 Scene 4 and how much Macbeth’s behaviour and actions have affected her.
Act 3 Scene 4 is a vital scene in the whole of the play. If it wasn’t for this scene, how would we start to see this play as a tragedy. With out this scene many things would not happen. Lady Macbeth would not of gone insane, yet another tragedy would not of happened. But most importantly Macbeth would have carried on behaving how he was. As an evil man not caring about how his people are being treated but only for his greed. The appearance of Banquo’s ghost at the banquet created sympathy for Macbeth as he gave in and realised what he had become.