Study Guide

Macbeth Act 3, Scene 4

By William Shakespeare

Act 3, Scene 4

  • Meanwhile, back at the dinner party, the Macbeths make a big show of welcoming their guests.
  • The first murderer enters as everyone is being seated. Macbeth darts off to see the first murderer, who informs him that they've slit Banquo's throat, but that Fleance has escaped.
  • Ooh. Not good. Macbeth is pretty sure that this is really going to tick Fleance off.
  • And now the fun begins: Banquo's ghost shows up. Because the ghost is silent, he gets to creep around quite a bit before anyone notices.
  • While everyone is busy not noticing, Macbeth raises a toast and calls special attention to Banquo's absence. He hopes Banquo is just running late or being rude and that nothing horrible has happened to him. What a thoughtful guy.
  • This is particularly hilarious given the presence...Banquo's ghost.
  • Again Macbeth is invited to sit, and in the spot they've reserved for him sits…Banquo's ghost. Naturally, Macbeth goes into a fit, and the lords all take notice. Lady Macbeth, always a quick thinker, excuses her husband for these "momentary" fits he has had since childhood.
  • She urges them to keep eating, and then corners Macbeth, who is still hysterical.
  • Lady Macbeth asks if Macbeth is a man, because he's not acting like one so much as he is acting like a sissy. She tells him to get it together—there's nothing but a stool in front of him. This "ghost" business is all in his head.
  • Meanwhile, Macbeth is discoursing with the ghost that only he sees, and then it disappears. He swears to Lady Macbeth that the ghost was there, and then laments that it used to be that when you dashed a man's brains out he would die. Now, apparently, instead of dying people come back and steal your seat at the table. Sheesh. The nerve!
  • Everything is just getting back to normal when the ghost reappears. Again Macbeth calls out a toast to the missing Banquo (he's just asking for it now). When he sees that the ghost has returned, Macbeth screams at him for being so spooky. He says if Banquo were to appear in any physical form—even a Russian bear—Macbeth would take him on, no problem. The ghost leaves again and Macbeth tells everyone to stay put. 
  • Lady Macbeth lets him know that he's killed the mood. It's pretty clear the party's over. 
  • Macbeth tries to recover, and he even questions everyone else asking how they can be so calm in the face of such horrible sights. Um...what sights? they want to know.
  • Lady Macbeth tells the concerned lords to leave immediately. Pronto. NOW.
  • After they exit, Macbeth philosophizes that blood will have blood. In other words, this ain't over yet.
  • Morning is now approaching, and Macbeth points out that Macduff never showed at the party. He lets out that he has had a spy in Macduff's house. He promises to go to the witches the next day, and says that he's so far into this bloody business that there's no turning back now. 
  • Lady Macbeth suggests that maybe he just needs a good night's sleep, and so they go off to bed. Sweet dreams, you crazy kids!