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Brief summary and commentary on the first three scenes in Act III...

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Brief summary and commentary on the first three scenes in Act III of Macbeth.

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  • March 10, 2004
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The first scene starts with Banquo voicing his suspicions about Macbeth killing Duncan in order to become the King. He is aware that the witches had prophesized that his sons would become Kings. But he doesn't let this thought obsess him. He is capable of controlling his thoughts and checking his ambitions unlike Macbeth which sets the two apart.

Macbeth enters with the others here. He announces that Banquo is to be the chief guest of the royal banquet he's hosting tonight. Banquo promises to come but not until later after he has returned from his ride with his son, Fleance. Then Macbeth talks of how Malcolm and Donalbain haven't yet confessed to their deed and are making up dumb tales to support their innocence. Macbeth needn't have told this to Banquo; his doing so shows that he is still scared that Banquo suspects him and he wants to clear any such suspicion in Banquo's mind by repeatedly reminding Banquo that Malcolm and Donalbain are the ones to blame.

Once everyone leaves and he's alone, Macbeth speaks out his innermost thoughts and feelings. His tone is that of despair, insecurity and defiance towards the end of the soliloquy. "To be thus is nothing; / But to be safely thus," he says. Macbeth realizes that being a King isn't all that great if the kingship is insecure. Banquo stands as an obstacle, a potential threat to his kingship. Then Macbeth goes on to admire Banquo and his qualities. He admires Banquo's 'nobility of character', 'loyalty', 'dauntless temper', 'daring', and his 'valour guided by his wisdom'. Here Macbeth compares himself to Mark Antony and Banquo to Julius Caesar. This is because Antony's guiding spirit was made timid by Caesar's just as Macbeth's is by Banquo's. Macbeth viewed himself as inferior to Banquo in terms of bravery and character. So he took Banquo to be the biggest potential threat to his crown.

Moreover, the three witches had prophesized that Banquo's sons would be kings. Now that he is a King, Macbeth isn't...