In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the banquet scene’s purpose is to show the chaos and inner turmoil within Macbeth as the guilt from his past crimes tears away at his conscience. In essence, the weight of carrying all the guilt and remorse takes a toll on his mental state. This banquet scene is dedicated in showing three themes that are constantly depicted throughout the play. These three themes consist of disorder, justice, and sleep; they all make evident the fact that Macbeth’s character has changed from the previous scenes.
The theme of disorder and chaos in a world of balance rings throughout the banquet scene. The irony behind the scene is that the world of the play takes place in an orderly fashion. Despite what is happening within the mind of Macbeth, the scene begins with a perfectly set and balanced table. The guests are seated in an arrangement, so that “Both sides are even” (III.iv.l.11). Macbeth, however, still suffers from the guilt and remorse after killing his own best friend. When he finds out that the deed is still not done, he proclaims, “Then comes my fit again” (III.iv.l.23). This foreshadows the fact that he will have an actual fit at the banquet in terms of showing his insanity to his guests. As Macbeth’s mind creates the image of Banquo’s ghost, his behavior becomes erratic. Even his royal guests say, “His Highness is not well” (III.iv.l.63). Lady Macbeth tries to conceal his bizarre nature by claiming “The fit is momentary” (III.iv.l.66). However, as the scene continues, Lady Macbeth notices that Macbeth will not recover because “He grows worse and worse” (III.iv.l.144).
“Macbeth does murder sleep” (II.ii.l.48). This is especially made evident because Macbeth’s mind does not rest at all. His mind constantly jumps from thought to thought. In the previous scene, He continuously proclaims, “Sleep no more! Macbeth shall sleep no more” (II.ii.l.57). According to Macbeth, sleep is the “chief nurturer” in life, as it helps rid your mind of the constant frustrations of everyday life. It not only is necessary in life, but it is also what makes life worth living. Macbeth feels that when he killed the King in his sleep, he murdered sleep along with him. In essence, Macbeth will now forever lack sleep just as Lady Macbeth sees that he lacks the cure for all nature, which is sleep (III.iv.l.173).
Macbeth has underlying theme of justice as the play evolves. Macbeth believes in the idea that “blood will have blood” (III.iv.l.153). To put it differently, Macbeth feels that sin will always have its retribution. If you commit an evil deed, then evil will be done unto you. Macbeth’s sense of justice is often impaired by his own ambition. In previous scenes, Macbeth has insight that “This even-handed justice commends th’ ingredience of our poisoned chalice to our own lips” (I.vii.l.10-13). However, despite knowing this, he still willingly goes along with the murder. In time, he finds that his own sense of justice is strangling his conscience. Macbeth proclaims, “I am in blood, stepped so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er” (III.iv.l.167-170). At this point, there is no turning back for Macbeth, and he realizes the error of his ways.
By the end of the banquet scene, you can notice that Macbeth has become remarkably different in his thought process. In his soliloquy in Act I: Scene VII, Macbeth is reasonable and has insight to his current situation. Although he does not listen to his own reasoning, it is still evident that he has “no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’ other” (I.vii.l.25-28). Compared to then last lines in the banquet scene, Macbeth has become much more power hungry and paranoid. He knows he must go see the witches, so that he may try to control his impending disastrous fate (III.iv.l.165-167). He even admits to knowing that he must kill more just, so that he will be safe (III.iv.l.176). After Macbeth has committed the murders, his conscience changes, and thus, he changes. The true irony behind this scene is that he yells at the image of Banquo saying, “Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mock’ry, hence!” In actuality, Macbeth is only yelling at the horrible shadow of the mockery of the once great hero he used to be.