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Macbeth Act III Discussion Questions*
- Act Three begins with a soliloquy by Banquo. In what ways does this speech show that Banquo is a threat to Macbeth?
- Read Macbeth's soliloquy beginning, "To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus-
- Paraphrase the soliloquy.
- What assumptions underlie Macbeth's fears?
- 3. Even before he killed Duncan, Macbeth had no children and Banquo did. Why did Macbeth not foresee this obvious problem before he committed murder? Why does he only realize now that "for Banquo's issue have I filed my mind"?
- Given Banquo's earlier soliloquy, to what extent do you feel his fears are justified?
- Why is it interesting that Macbeth employs professional cut-throats to kill Banquo?
- I n what ways do each of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth show that the crown has not brought peace of mind?
- In what ways has Macbeth changed since the murder?
- In many ways the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have been reversed. Show how their relationship has altered. Pay particular attention to the way the "fair is foul " theme is used to emphasize this change.
- Take note of this fact too: Before and immediately after Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth had an extraordinary marriage of shared partnership (and shared culpability). Does this shared partnership continue after the beginning of Act II?
- What are some typical human responses to guilt? Try to list as many as you can think of. How do we typically deal with this emotion?
- What responses to guilt do we see manifesting in the behavior of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth? How is each character individually dealing with or processing this emotion?
- One famous treatment of Macbeth in an academic setting involved a college pre-law program in which the class put Macbeth on trial for the murders he commits during the course of the play, using only the information directly stated in the text as evidence for his guilt or innocence. Though initially, the prosecution side felt that they had a case they could not lose, the defense quickly moved to strike all conversations between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (using the rule of marital privilege) and to strike all soliloquies and asides (using the rule against self-incrimination). This left the prosecution with substantially less evidence - - except for this one scene . If you were on the prosecution side and had to build a case convicting Macbeth of the murders he commits, what statements does he make during this scene that are especially incriminating? Mark incriminating statements with an "I" and be prepared to defend your answers.
- does the fact that only Macbeth can see this ghost suggest about the nature of the ghost?
- How does Lady Macbeth respond to his "fit"?
- Once again there is a shift in their relationship. Explain this shift.
- Once Banquo's ghost has finally gone, Macbeth appears to be more settled. Why do you think this is so?
- Why do you think Macbeth decides to visit the witches again?
- For my own good
- All causes shall give way. I am in blood
- Stepped so far that, should I wade no more,
- Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
- Strange things I have in head that will to hand
- Which must be acted ere they may be scanned.
- Explain what Macbeth means here.
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Study Help Essay Questions
1. Agree or disagree with the following statement: " Macbeth is a play about courage, which asserts the triumph of good over evil." In answering this question, you should remember that courageous acts are not always motivated by virtue.
2. Examine to what extent Lady Macbeth is to blame for her husband's downfall. Discuss the relationship between the couple as the play develops.
3. Discuss whether Macbeth is truly a tragic figure.
4. Some people suggest that the porter scene is included only so that the actor playing Macbeth has time to wash the blood off his hands. Do you agree? Or do you think the scene serves other purposes? Explain your answer.
5. From your reading, explain what Shakespeare imagined to be the qualities of a good king. How do Duncan and Macbeth fit this role? How might Malcolm do so?
6. Consider the use that Shakespeare makes of supernatural elements in this play. Be sure to include the Witches, the dagger, Banquo's ghost, the apparitions, and the Old Man's observations in your assessment.
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by William Shakespeare
Macbeth summary and analysis of act 3, act 3, scene 1.
Alone at Macbeth's court, Banquo voices his suspicions that Macbeth has killed Duncan in order to fulfill the witches' prophesies. He muses that perhaps the witches' vision for his own future will also be realized, but pushes the thought from his mind. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth enter to the fanfare of trumpets, along with Lennox and Ross . Macbeth announces that he will hold a banquet in the evening and that Banquo will be honored as chief guest. Banquo states that he must ride in the afternoon but will return for the banquet. Macbeth tells him that Malcolm and Donalbain will not confess to killing their father. After confirming that Fleance will accompany Banquo on his trip, Macbeth wishes Banquo a safe ride.
Left alone, Macbeth summons the two murderers he has hired. While he waits for them, he voices his greatest worry of the moment—that the witches' prophecy will also come true for Banquo, making his children kings. He will put an end to such worries by hiring two men to kill Banquo and Fleance. The men are not professional assassins, but rather poor men who are willing to work as mercenaries. Macbeth has already blamed their current state of poverty on Banquo. He now tells them that while Banquo is his own enemy as much as theirs, loyal friends of Banquo's prevent him from killing Banquo himself. Macbeth proceeds to detail the particulars of the murder: they must attack him as he returns from his ride—at a certain distance from the palace—and they must also kill Fleance at the same time.
Act 3, Scene 2
Alone on stage, Lady Macbeth expresses her unhappiness: there seems to be no end to her desire for power and she feels insecure and anxious. Macbeth enters looking upset and she counsels him to stop mulling over the crimes they have committed. But Macbeth declares that their job is not done: he still spends every waking moment in fear and every night embroiled in nightmares. He even envies Duncan, who now sleeps peacefully in his grave. Lady Macbeth warns him to act cheerful in front of their dinner guests. She also tries to comfort him by reminding him that Banquo and Fleance are by no means immortal. Macbeth responds by telling her that "a deed of dreadful note" will be done in the night, though he will not divulge the details (33).
Act 3, Scene 3
The two murderers are joined by a third, who says that he has also been hired by Macbeth. Horses are heard approaching and Banquo and Fleance enter. The murderers attack Banquo but Fleance manages to escape. The murderers leave to report back to Macbeth.
Act 3, Scene 4
At the banquet, a murderer arrives and reports to Macbeth just as the dinner guests begin to arrive. He informs Macbeth that Banquo is dead but Fleance has escaped. Shaken, Macbeth thanks him for what he has done and arranges another meeting on the following day. The murderer leaves and Macbeth returns to the feast.
Looking over the table, Macbeth declares that the banquet would be perfect if only Banquo were present. At this point Banquo's ghost appears unobserved and takes Macbeth's seat. The guests urge Macbeth to sit and eat with them but Macbeth says that the table is full. When Lennox points to Macbeth's empty seat, Macbeth is shocked to see Banquo’s ghost. He addresses the ghost, saying, "Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake / Thy gory locks at me" (49-50). The guests, confused by his behavior, think that he is ill. Lady Macbeth reassures them, however, by saying that he has had similar fits since youth and that he will soon be well. She draws Macbeth aside and attempts to calm him by asserting that the vision is merely a “painting of [his] fear”—just like the dagger he saw earlier (60). Ignoring her, Macbeth charges the ghost to speak but it disappears. After Lady Macbeth scolds him for being "unmanned in folly" (73), Macbeth returns to his guests and claims that he has "a strange infirmity," which they should ignore (85).
Just as the party resumes and Macbeth is offering a toast to Banquo, the ghost reappears. As Macbeth once again bursts out in a speech directed at the ghost, Lady Macbeth tries to smooth things over with the guests. In response to Macbeth’s exclamation that he sees sights that make his cheeks “blanched with fear,” Ross asks what sights Macbeth means (114). Lady Macbeth asks the guests to leave, since Macbeth's "illness" seems to be deteriorating. Alone with Lady Macbeth, Macbeth expresses his deep anxieties and vows to return to the Weird Sisters.
Act 3, Scene 5
On the heath, the witches meet Hecate, queen of witches, who chastises them for meddling in Macbeth's affairs without involving her or showing him any fancy magic spectacles. She tells them that Macbeth will visit them tomorrow and that they must put on a more dramatic show for him.
Act 3, Scene 6
Lennox and another lord discuss politics. Lennox comments sarcastically on the recent deaths of Duncan and Banquo. He suggests that it seems implausible for Malcolm and Donalbain to be inhuman enough to kill their father. Moreover, Macbeth's slaying of the bodyguards seemed very convenient, since they probably would have denied killing Duncan. Lennox proposes that if Malcolm, Donalbain, and Fleance were in Macbeth's prison, they would also probably be dead now. He also reveals that since Macduff did not attend Macbeth's feast, he has been denounced. The lord with whom Lennox speaks comments that Macduff has joined Malcolm at the English court. The two men have apparently asked Siward to lead an army against Macbeth. Lennox and the lord send their prayers to Macduff and Malcolm.
The “be a man” theme recurs in Macbeth’s address to the murderers. When Macbeth demands whether the murderers have the courage to kill Banquo, they answer "we are men, my liege" (III i 92). But their answer does not satisfy Macbeth, who berates them as less-than-exemplary examples of men. Macbeth thus uses very much the same goading tactics his wife used in compelling him to kill Duncan. But what does it mean, exactly, to “be a man”? Both Macbeth and his Lady seem to have a clear idea of properly masculine actions. In Act 1, Lady Macbeth suggests that masculinity is largely a question of ruthlessness: one must be willing to “das[h] the brains out” of one’s own baby (58). She claims that she herself is less "full o' th' milk of human kindness" than Macbeth—that is, more capable of casting away the last shreds of compassion, tenderness, loyalty, and guilt.
Lady Macbeth is not the only character that values ruthlessness as a masculine trait. Duncan, too, evaluates heroic action on a rather gory scale. When the captain describes how Macbeth “unseamed [Macdonald] from the nave to th’ chops” with “his brandished steel / Which smoked of bloody execution,” Duncan responds with high praise: "O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman" (I ii 17-22)! A "real man” in Macbeth , then, is one who is capable of copious bloodshed without remorse. The catch, of course, is that the bloodshed must be justified. Whereas Macbeth needs no reason to slay Macdonald in battle per se, the two murderers require the justification that Banquo is an evil man.
As for the terms of murder, Macbeth warns the murderers to kill Fleance and thus “leave no rubs nor botches in the work" (III i 135). Macbeth "require[s] a clearness”—that is, a clearance from suspicion but also a mental and physical cleanliness. The theme of stains and washing runs throughout the play. From Macbeth's cry about all “great Neptune’s ocean” in Act 2, to his instructions to the murderers in Act 3, to Lady Macbeth's famous “Out, damned spot" speech in Act 5, the Macbeths are haunted by the idea that they will be forever stained. Even when Macbeth has Banquo killed at a safe distance from himself, the spilled blood still returns to haunt Macbeth. When the murderer shows up to report his success, Macbeth observes: "There's blood upon thy face" (III iv 11). The blood itself serves a sign and reminder of the Macbeths’ culpability—ultimately driving Lady Macbeth mad.
Banquo's murder itself makes use of a common theme in Shakespeare's plays: the contrast between light and dark. While the murderers wait for Banquo and Fleance to approach, one of them observes that the sun is setting. This is no coincidence: Banquo serves as a bright contrast to the dark night that accompanies Macbeth's rise to power. He is a man who does not allow his ambitions to eclipse his conscience. At the moment that he dies, therefore, it is appropriate for the last remnant of sunlight to fade away. Such symbolism is reinforced by the fact that Banquo and Fleance approach the murderers carrying a torch. The torchlight is the first thing that the murderers see: "a light, a light" notes the second murderer (III iii 14). And after the deed is finished, the third murderer asks: "who did strike out the light?" (III iii 27). At the same moment that the good and kind Banquo dies, the light is extinguished.
Another aspect of Banquo's murder has intrigued generations of scholars: who is the third murderer? Some believe that it is Lady Macbeth, who expressed curiosity about Macbeth’s plans in Scene 2. Others believe that it is Macbeth himself, who could not trust the murderers fully. The third murderers could even be the three witches in disguise. In any case, introducing a third murderer rounds out the number of murderers so that they balance the three witches. There is power in the number three: Macbeth meets three witches, commits three separate murders, and sees three apparitions. The number three recurs throughout the play, adding to its mysterious and magic atmosphere
Finally, one of the most compelling scenes in Macbeth takes place at the banquet haunted by Banquo's ghost. Once again, the boundaries between reality and the supernatural are blurred as Banquo's ghost appears twice—both at exactly the moment Macbeth mentions him. It seems that the vision of Banquo accompanies the idea of Banquo in Macbeth’s mind. The ghost thus seems more like the manifestation of an idea—a figment of the imagination—rather than a “real” ghost. Lady Macbeth says as much when she pulls Macbeth aside: “This is the very painting of your fear; / This is the air-drawn dagger which you said / Led you to Duncan" (III iv 60-62). Just like the dagger, Banquo's ghost appears to be a realization of Macbeth's guilt. Even if the occurrence is supernatural, the event is very real for Macbeth.
Macbeth Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Macbeth is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Macbeth Act 1 Scene 3 questions
What is significant about the first words that Macbeth speaks in the play?
A motif or recurring idea in the play is equivocation. There is the balance of the dark and the light, the good and the bad. Macbeth's first line reflects this. It...
What news took the wind out of Macbeth's invincibility?
Macbeth rethinks his invincibility when MacDuff tells him that he was torn from his mother's womb.
Did Banquo believe Ghosts? Why?
I'm sorry, are you asking if Banquo believed in ghosts? Based upon act and scene?
Study Guide for Macbeth
Macbeth study guide contains a biography of William Shakespeare, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About Macbeth
- Macbeth Summary
- Macbeth Video
- Character List
Essays for Macbeth
Macbeth essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
- Serpentine Imagery in Shakespeare's Macbeth
- Macbeth's Evolution
- Jumping the Life to Come
- Deceptive Appearances in Macbeth
- Unity in Shakespeare's Tragedies
Lesson Plan for Macbeth
- About the Author
- Study Objectives
- Common Core Standards
- Introduction to Macbeth
- Relationship to Other Books
- Bringing in Technology
- Notes to the Teacher
- Related Links
- Macbeth Bibliography
E-Text of Macbeth
Macbeth e-text contains the full text of Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
- Persons Represented
- Act I, Scene I
- Act I, Scene II
- Act I, Scene III
- Act I, Scene IV
Wikipedia Entries for Macbeth
- Sources for the play
- Date and text
Macbeth - Act 3, scene 1
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Act 3, scene 1.
Banquo suspects that Macbeth killed Duncan in order to become king. Macbeth invites Banquo to a feast that night. Banquo promises to return in time. Macbeth, fearing that Banquo’s children, not his own, will be the future kings of Scotland, seizes upon the opportunity provided by Banquo’s scheduled return after dark to arrange for his murder. To carry out the crime, Macbeth employs two men whom he has persuaded to regard Banquo as an enemy.
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Macbeth Act 3
Macbeth is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare later in his career about a Scottish nobleman’s obsession with power. It’s one of Shakespeare’s timeless classics.”
In this post, I will provide a comprehensive plot summary of Macbeth Act 3, broken down by scene with corresponding questions and answers for each section.
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Macbeth Act 3 Scene 1
Inside the king’s castle in Forres, Banquo walks around, thinking about the witches’ prophecies. They said Macbeth would be king, but they also hinted that Banquo’s descendants would become kings. Banquo, feeling ambitious, wonders if these prophecies will come true for him as well. Macbeth, who is now the king, enters with Lady Macbeth and their court. They invite Banquo to a feast that evening, and Banquo agrees but mentions he’ll be out riding his horse for the afternoon. Macbeth is worried about Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan’s sons, who have fled and might pose a threat to his rule.
After Banquo leaves, Macbeth dismisses the court and stays alone with a servant. He shares his concerns about Banquo, fearing that his descendants will take the throne. Macbeth knows his own crown will be “fruitless” if he has no heir. He decides to take action and orders two murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance when they come for the feast.
Questions on Macbeth Act 3 Scene 1
- A: This scene takes place inside the king’s castle in Forres.
- A: Banquo is thinking about the witches’ prophecies, particularly the part that hinted his descendants would become kings.
- A: Macbeth is the current king, and he is worried about Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, who have fled and might pose a threat to his rule.
- A: Macbeth is concerned that Banquo’s ambitions and the prophecy about his descendants becoming kings could threaten his own reign.
- A: Macbeth invites Banquo to a feast that evening, and Banquo agrees but mentions that he’ll be out riding his horse for the afternoon.
- A: Macbeth fears that Banquo’s descendants will take the throne, making his own crown “fruitless” without an heir.
- A: Macbeth orders two murderers to carry out the plan to kill Banquo and his son Fleance when they come for the feast.
- A: Macbeth’s decision marks a turning point in the play, as it sets in motion a series of murders and conspiracies that will lead to further bloodshed and chaos.
- A: Lady Macbeth is not directly involved in this decision, but her ambition and influence have previously spurred Macbeth to commit murder, and his concern for their dynasty drives him to take action.
- A: Macbeth’s character becomes more ruthless and paranoid as he becomes increasingly obsessed with maintaining his grip on the throne, leading him to commit more heinous acts.
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 2
Lady Macbeth, in another part of the castle, expresses her unhappiness and sends a servant to find her husband. Macbeth joins her, sharing his discontent and feeling troubled. He believes their business is incomplete because threats to his throne remain. Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth about his plan to have Banquo and Fleance killed during the feast.
Questions on Macbeth Act 3 Scene 2
- A: Lady Macbeth is in another part of the castle.
- A: Lady Macbeth sends a servant to find her husband, Macbeth, likely because she wants to discuss their current situation and concerns with him.
- A: Macbeth feels troubled and discontented, as he believes that threats to his throne still exist.
- A: Macbeth shares his plan to have Banquo and Fleance killed during the feast, as he sees them as potential threats to his rule.
- A: The text doesn’t explicitly reveal Lady Macbeth’s immediate reaction in this particular scene, but she has previously encouraged Macbeth to take ruthless actions to secure his throne.
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 3
In a darkening wooded area near the palace, the two murderers, now joined by a third, wait for Banquo and Fleance. When Banquo and Fleance arrive, they light a torch. The murderers attack and kill Banquo, but Fleance manages to escape into the darkness. The murderers take Banquo’s body with them to inform Macbeth.
Questions on Macbeth Act 3 Scene 3
- A: The murderers wait for Banquo and Fleance in a darkening wooded area near the palace.
- A: There are three murderers involved in the attack on Banquo and Fleance.
- A: Banquo is killed by the murderers during the attack.
- A: Fleance manages to escape into the darkness and survives the attack.
- A: The murderers take Banquo’s body with them, presumably to inform Macbeth of their success and carry out his orders.
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 4
Inside the castle, a grand feast is set up, with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as the hosts, followed by their court. While Macbeth mingles with the guests, the first murderer enters and informs Macbeth that Banquo is dead but that Fleance escaped. This news angers Macbeth, as Fleance is a threat to his throne.
As Macbeth returns to the feast, he finds Banquo’s ghost sitting in his chair. Shocked and terrified, Macbeth talks to the ghost, which is invisible to others. Lady Macbeth makes excuses for her husband’s strange behavior, but Macbeth’s outbursts continue. Lady Macbeth asks the guests to leave, and the ghost disappears. Macbeth then mentions his fear of Macduff and resolves to visit the witches again.
Questions on Macbeth Act 3 Scene 4
- A: The feast is a grand gathering hosted by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, where they play the roles of hosts to their court.
- A: The first murderer informs Macbeth that Banquo is dead but that Fleance escaped the attack.
- A: Macbeth is angered because he sees Fleance as a threat to his throne, as the witches’ prophecy suggests that Banquo’s descendants would inherit the throne.
- A: Banquo’s ghost appears and sits in Macbeth’s chair, shocking and terrifying Macbeth.
- A: Banquo’s ghost is invisible to everyone except Macbeth, and Macbeth speaks directly to the ghost.
- A: Lady Macbeth makes excuses for Macbeth’s behavior, trying to downplay it and calm the guests.
- A: Lady Macbeth asks the guests to leave the feast, attempting to end the awkward situation.
- A: Banquo’s ghost disappears when the guests depart.
- A: Macbeth expresses his fear of Macduff, believing that Macduff poses a significant threat to him.
- A: Macbeth decides to visit the witches again, seeking further guidance and reassurance about his fate and his hold on power.
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 5
On a stormy heath, the witches meet with Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft. Hecate scolds the witches for interfering with Macbeth without consulting her. She takes charge of their plans, instructing them to create illusions and spirits to deceive Macbeth further.
Questions on Macbeth Act 3 Scene 5
- A: The meeting between the witches and Hecate takes place on a stormy heath.
- A: Hecate is the goddess of witchcraft, and in this scene, she scolds the witches for interfering with Macbeth without consulting her and takes charge of their plans.
- A: Hecate instructs the witches to create illusions and spirits to further deceive and manipulate Macbeth.
- A: Hecate’s involvement highlights the escalating supernatural elements in the play and the witches’ connection to a higher, more powerful force.
- A: This scene shows that the witches’ actions are now under Hecate’s guidance, indicating that Macbeth will face even more supernatural tricks and illusions in the future.
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 6
In another part of Scotland that night, Lennox and another lord discuss the state of the kingdom. Banquo’s murder has been blamed on Fleance, who has fled. However, both men suspect Macbeth’s involvement in the murders of Duncan and Banquo. They also talk about Macduff going to England to seek help from King Edward. They hope that Malcolm and Macduff can save Scotland from Macbeth’s tyranny.
Questions on Macbeth Act 3 Scene 6
- A: Lennox and another lord are the two characters having a discussion.
- A: The official explanation is that Banquo’s murder has been blamed on his son, Fleance, who has fled.
- A: They suspect that Macbeth is involved in the murders of both King Duncan and Banquo.
- A: Macduff has gone to England to seek help from King Edward to overthrow Macbeth’s rule.
- A: They hope that Malcolm and Macduff can save Scotland from Macbeth’s tyranny by joining forces and taking action.
Macbeth Act 4
Macbeth Act 2
Macbeth Act 1
Macbeth Act 5
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Act 3: Scenes 1–3 Quiz
1 of 5 what does banquo wonder about the witches’ prophecy.
- If perhaps they were wrong and he might become king one day
- If there is any room for free will in the world or if all is fate
- If his descendents will really become kings
- If he could bribe or threaten them into changing the future
2 of 5 How does Macbeth feel about Banquo?
- He fears that Banquo and his sons will cut short his reign.
- He believes Banquo to be a loyal friend.
- He thinks Banquo is planning on murdering him.
- In his madness, he forgets who Banquo is.
3 of 5 What does Macbeth hire three men to do?
- Protect him from assassins
- Kill Macduff and his family
- Find the witches so he can talk to them again
- Kill Banquo and his son
4 of 5 Does Lady Macbeth think this murder of Banquo and his son are necessary?
- No, but she’ll help him if he does.
- Yes, she thinks the business won’t be done until they are both dead.
- She’s not sure and wants to err on the side of caution by killing them.
- She opposes it and threatens to stop Macbeth if he tries.
5 of 5 Do the assassins succeed in killing Banquo and Fleance?
- Yes, they kill both of them.
- They kill Banquo but Fleance escapes.
- No, they both escape and vow revenge.
- They kill Fleance but Banquo escapes.
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