Study Guide

Macbeth Act 3, Scene 1 Summary

By William Shakespeare

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Act 3, Scene 1

  • At Macbeth's new palace in Forres, Banquo, alone on stage, delivers a soliloquy: he's totally suspicious of Macbeth. But he does take the time to note that his part of the prophecy, regarding his royal seed, will also probably come true.
  • Banquo pipes down when the newly crowned Macbeth, his lovely Queen, and a posse of noblemen enter the room.
  • Macbeth sweet talks Banquo, calling him his honored guest and requesting his presence at a fancy banquet to be held that night. Banquo says he will, of course, do whatever Macbeth asks. However, he won't be around to offer any advice this afternoon as he has errands to run. 
  • Macbeth oh-so-casually asks what Banquo will be up to, and finds out that he'll be riding off somewhere before the dinner, but that he'll definitely be back in time for the feast.
  • Having obtained the information he needs, Macbeth changes the subject to the fact that the "bloody" Malcolm and Donalbain are suspiciously missing, and respectively hiding out with new friends in Ireland and England. Plus, it seems that Duncan's sons are busy "not confessing" to Duncan's murder —instead, they're spreading nasty rumors about their father's death.
  • Macbeth adds a little BTW as Banquo leaves, asking if his son, Fleance, will be riding along with him that evening. Fleance will indeed be going, and upon hearing this, Macbeth bids them farewell.
  • Everyone except for Macbeth and a servant leave the room.
  • Macbeth has the servant call in the men he has waiting at the gate.
  • Left to himself, Macbeth launches into a long speech about why it's necessary and good to kill his friend, Banquo. Uh, okay.
  • Macbeth is worried about Banquo's noble nature, wisdom, and valor. Plus, if the rest of the witches' prophecy comes true, Macbeth figures that he'll have sold his soul to the devil (by killing Duncan) only for Banquo's kids to take his crown.
  • He concludes his speech by inviting fate to wrestle with him, and says he won't give up until he's won or dead. Hm. It seems like it's getting a whole lot easier for Macbeth to think about murder, don't you think?
  • The two men at the gate are brought in, and we discover that Macbeth intends for them to murder Banquo and his son while on their ride.
  • Macbeth speechifies to the two murderers about how Banquo is their enemy and anything bad that has ever happened to them is surely Banquo's fault. Macbeth says that no turn-the-other-cheek Christianity is necessary here.
  • The murderers respond by saying that they are only "men," and then Macbeth uses the technique he learned while being berated by his own wife: he claims they're not real men if they're not brave enough to murder a man for their own good. 
  • Um...okay, say the henchmen. We'll do it. Their lives are pretty bad anyway. They're fine with taking a chance on eternal damnation.
  • Macbeth says that Banquo is his enemy, too, and he'd do the kingly thing and just have him publicly killed, except that they have a lot of mutual friends, which might make things a little awkward at parties. 
  • The murderers again say they'll do it, and Macbeth says he'll tell them where they need to be and when. Oh, and they'll have to kill the Fleance, too. Macbeth will be in touch shortly, but right now he has to go get ready for a dinner party. After they leave, Macbeth delivers a nice rhyming couplet indicating that if Banquo's soul is headed to heaven, it will arrive there tonight. 

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