This article is about the character in Shakespeare's Macbeth. For the small town in the United States, see Banquo, Indiana.
Lord Banquo, the Thane of Lochaber, is a character in William Shakespeare's 1606 play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally to Macbeth (both are generals in the King's army) and they meet the Three Witches together. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his descendants will be. Later, Macbeth in his lust for power sees Banquo as a threat and has him murdered; Banquo's son, Fleance, escapes. Banquo's ghost returns in a later scene, causing Macbeth to react with alarm during a public feast.
Shakespeare borrowed the character of Banquo from Holinshed's Chronicles, a history of Britain published by Raphael Holinshed in 1587. In Chronicles Banquo is an accomplice to Macbeth in the murder of the king, rather than a loyal subject of the king who is seen as an enemy by Macbeth. Shakespeare may have changed this aspect of his character to please King James, who was thought at the time to be a descendant of the real Banquo. Critics often interpret Banquo's role in the play as being a foil to Macbeth, resisting evil where Macbeth embraces it. Sometimes, however, his motives are unclear, and some critics question his purity. He does nothing to accuse Macbeth of murdering the king, even though he has reason to believe Macbeth is responsible.
See also: Holinshed's Chronicles
Shakespeare often used Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland—commonly known as Holinshed's Chronicles—as a source for his plays, and in Macbeth he borrows from several of the tales in that work. Holinshed portrays Banquo as a historical figure: he is an accomplice in Mac Bethad mac Findlaích's (Macbeth's) murder of Donnchad mac Crínáin (King Duncan) and plays an important part in ensuring that Macbeth, not Máel Coluim mac Donnchada (Malcolm), takes the throne in the coup that follows. Holinshed in turn used an earlier work, the Scotorum Historiae (1526–7) by Hector Boece, as his source. Boece's work is the first known record of Banquo and his son Fleance; and scholars such as David Bevington generally consider them fictional characters invented by Boece. In Shakespeare's day, however, they were considered historical figures of great repute, and the king, James I, based his claim to the throne in part on a descent from Banquo. The House of Stuart was descended from Walter fitz Alan, Steward of Scotland, and he was believed to have been the grandson of Fleance and Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's daughter, Nesta ferch Gruffydd. In reality Walter fitz Alan was the son of Alan fitz Flaad, a Breton knight.
Unlike his sources, Shakespeare gives Banquo no role in the King's murder, making it a deed committed solely by Macbeth and his wife. Why Shakespeare's Banquo is so different from the character described by Holinshed and Boece is not known, though critics have proposed several possible explanations. First among them is the risk associated with portraying the king's ancestor as a murderer and conspirator in the plot to overthrow a rightful king, as well as the author's desire to flatter a powerful patron. But Shakespeare may also simply have altered Banquo's character because there was no dramatic need for another accomplice to the murder. There was, however, a need to provide a dramatic contrast to Macbeth; a role that many scholars argue is filled by Banquo. Similarly, when Jean de Schelandre wrote about Banquo in his Stuartide in 1611, he also changed the character by portraying him as a noble and honourable man—the critic D. W. Maskell describes him as "...Schelandre's paragon of valour and virtue"—probably for reasons similar to Shakespeare's.
Banquo's role in the coup that follows the murder is harder to explain. Banquo's loyalty to Macbeth, rather than Malcolm, after Duncan's death makes him a passive accomplice in the coup: Malcolm, as Prince of Cumberland, is the rightful heir to the throne and Macbeth a usurper. Daniel Amneus, however, argues that when Ross and Angus bring King Duncan's praise, and the news that Macbeth has been granted the title of Thane of Cawdor, the "greater honor" he ascribes to Macbeth is actually his title as Prince of Cumberland. If Macbeth, rather than Malcolm, is Prince of Cumberland then Macbeth would be next in line to the throne and no coup would be needed, effectively removing this ambiguity from Banquo's character.
Role in the play
Banquo is in a third of the play's scenes, as both a human and a ghost. As significant as he is to the plot, he has fewer lines than the relatively insignificant Ross, a Scottish nobleman who survives the play. In the second scene of the play, King Duncan describes the manner in which Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, and Banquo, Thane of Lochaber, bravely led his army against invaders, fighting side by side. In the next scene, Banquo and Macbeth, returning from the battle together, encounter the Three Witches, who predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and then king. Banquo, sceptical of the witches, challenges them to predict his own future, and they foretell that Banquo will never himself take the throne, but will beget a line of kings. Banquo remains sceptical after the encounter, wondering aloud if evil can ever speak the truth. He warns Macbeth that evil will offer men a small, hopeful truth only to catch them in a deadly trap.
When Macbeth kills the king and takes the throne, Banquo—the only one aware of this encounter with the witches—reserves judgment for God. He is unsure whether Macbeth committed regicide to gain the throne, but muses in a soliloquy that "I fear / Thou play'dst most foully for 't". He offers his respects to the new King Macbeth and pledges loyalty. Later, worried that Banquo's descendants and not his own will rule Scotland, Macbeth sends two men, and then a Third Murderer, to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. During the melee, Banquo holds off the assailants so that Fleance can escape, but is himself killed. The ghost of Banquo later returns to haunt Macbeth at the banquet in Act Three, Scene Four. A terrified Macbeth sees him, while the apparition is invisible to his guests. He appears again to Macbeth in a vision granted by the Three Witches, wherein Macbeth sees a long line of kings descended from Banquo.
Foil to Macbeth
Many scholars see Banquo as a foil and a contrast to Macbeth. Macbeth, for example, eagerly accepts the Three Witches' prophecy as true and seeks to help it along. Banquo, on the other hand, doubts the prophecies and the intentions of these seemingly evil creatures. Whereas Macbeth places his hope in the prediction that he will be king, Banquo argues that evil only offers gifts that lead to destruction. Banquo steadily resists the temptations of evil within the play, praying to heaven for help, while Macbeth seeks darkness, and prays that evil powers will aid him. This is visible in act two; after Banquo sees Duncan to bed, he says: "There's husbandry in heaven, / Their candles are all out". This premonition of the coming darkness in association with Macbeth's murders is repeated just before Banquo is killed: "it will be rain to-night", Banquo tells his son Fleance.
Banquo's status as a contrast to Macbeth makes for some tense moments in the play. In act two, scene one, Banquo meets his son Fleance and asks him to take both his sword and his dagger ("Hold, take my sword ... Take thee that too"). He also explains that he has been having trouble sleeping due to "cursed thoughts that nature / gives way to in repose!" On Macbeth's approach, he demands the sword returned to him quickly. Scholars have interpreted this to mean that Banquo has been dreaming of murdering the king as Macbeth's accomplice to take the throne for his own family, as the Three Witches prophesied to him. In this reading, his good nature is so revolted by these thoughts that he gives his sword and dagger to Fleance to be sure they do not come true, but is so nervous at Macbeth's approach that he demands them back. Other scholars have responded that Banquo's dreams have less to do with killing the king and more to do with Macbeth. They argue that Banquo is merely setting aside his sword for the night. Then, when Macbeth approaches, Banquo, having had dreams about Macbeth's deeds, takes back his sword as a precaution in this case.
Macbeth eventually sees that Banquo can no longer be trusted to aid him in his evil, and considers his friend a threat to his newly acquired throne. Thus he has him murdered. Banquo's ability to live on in different ways is another oppositional force, in this case to Macbeth's impending death. His spirit lives on in Fleance, his son, and in his ghostly presence at the banquet.
When Macbeth returns to the witches later in the play, they show him an apparition of the murdered Banquo, along with eight of his descendants. The scene carries deep significance: King James, on the throne when Macbeth was written, was believed to be separated from Banquo by nine generations. What Shakespeare writes here thus amounts to a strong support of James' right to the throne by lineage, and for audiences of Shakespeare's day, a very real fulfilment of the witches' prophecy to Banquo that his sons would take the throne. This apparition is also deeply unsettling to Macbeth, who not only wants the throne for himself, but also desires to father a line of kings.
Banquo's other appearance as a ghost during the banquet scene serves as an indicator of Macbeth's conscience returning to plague his thoughts. Banquo's triumph over death appears symbolically, insofar as he literally takes Macbeth's seat during the feast. Shocked, Macbeth uses words appropriate to the metaphor of usurpation, describing Banquo as "crowned" with wounds. The spirit drains Macbeth's manhood along with the blood from his cheeks; as soon as Banquo's form vanishes, Macbeth announces: "Why, so; being gone, / I am a man again."
Like the vision of Banquo's lineage, the banquet scene has also been the subject of criticism. Critics have questioned whether not one, but perhaps two ghosts appear in this scene: Banquo and Duncan. Scholars arguing that Duncan attends the banquet state that Macbeth's lines to the Ghost could apply equally well to the slain king. "Thou canst not say I did it", for example, can mean that Macbeth is not the man who actually killed Banquo, or it can mean that Duncan, who was asleep when Macbeth killed him, cannot claim to have seen his killer. To add to the confusion, some lines Macbeth directs to the ghost, such as "Thy bones are marrowless", cannot rightly be said of Banquo, who has only recently died.
Scholars debate whether Macbeth's vision of Banquo is real or a hallucination. Macbeth had already seen a hallucination before murdering Duncan: a knife hovering in the air. Several performances of the play have even ignored the stage direction to have the Ghost of Banquo enter at all, heightening the sense that Macbeth is growing mad, since the audience cannot see what he claims to see. Scholars opposing this view claim that while the dagger is unusual, ghosts of murdered victims are more believable, having a basis in the audience's superstitions. Spirits in other Shakespeare plays—notably Hamlet and Midsummer Night's Dream—exist in ambiguous forms, occasionally even calling into question their own presence.
The concept of a character being confronted at a triumphant feast with a reminder of their downfall is not unique to Shakespeare and may originate from the Belshazzar's feast episode of the Bible. The term 'ghost at the feast' has entered popular culture, and is often used as a metaphor for a subject a person would rather avoid considering, or (considering the general plot of Macbeth) a reminder of a person's unpleasant past or likely future.
Performances and interpretations
Banquo's role, especially in the banquet ghost scene, has been subject to a variety of interpretations and mediums. Shakespeare's text states: "Enter Ghost of Banquo, and sits in Macbeth's place." Several television versions have altered this slightly, having Banquo appear suddenly in the chair, rather than walking onstage and into it. Special effects and camera tricks also allow producers to make the ghost disappear and reappear, highlighting the fact that only Macbeth can see it.
Stage directors, unaided by post-production effects and camera tricks, have used other methods to depict the ghost. In the late 19th century, elaborate productions of the play staged by Henry Irving employed a wide variety of approaches for this task. In 1877 a green silhouette was used to create a ghostlike image; ten years later a trick chair was used to allow an actor to appear in the middle of the scene, and then again from the midst of the audience. In 1895 a shaft of blue light served to indicate the presence of Banquo's spirit. In 1933 a Russian director named Theodore Komisarjevsky staged a modern retelling of the play (Banquo and Macbeth were told of their future through palmistry); he used Macbeth's shadow as the ghost. In 1936 Orson Welles directed the Federal Theatre Projectproduction of the play, with an African-American cast that included Canada Lee in the role of Banquo.
Film adaptations have approached Banquo's character in a variety of ways. Akira Kurosawa's 1957 adaptation Throne of Blood makes the character into Capitan Miki (played by Minoru Chiaki), slain by Macbeth's equivalent (Captain Washizu) when his wife explains that she is with child. News of Miki's death does not reach Washizu until after he has seen the ghost in the banquet scene. In Roman Polanski's 1971 adaptation, Banquo is played by acclaimed stage actor Martin Shaw, in a style reminiscent of earlier stage performances. Polanski's version also emphasises Banquo's objection to Macbeth's ascendency by showing him remaining silent as the other thanes around him hail Macbeth as king. in the 1990 telling of Macbeth in a New York Mafia crime family setting, Men of Respect, the character of Banquo is named "Bankie Como" and played by American actor Dennis Farina.
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- ^Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 1, lines 2–3.
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- ^ abMacbeth, Act 2, Scene 1, lines 4–5.
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Remind yourself of Act1 Scene7 and its significance within the play Macbeth. Starting with this scene, explore the ways in which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are presented in Shakespeare’s play and one other performed version of the play. Bibliography: CGP GCSE English Macbeth by William Shakespeare The Complete Play Macbeth YORK NOTES ADVANCED William Shakespeare Cambridge School Shakespeare Macbeth Roman Polanski Film of Macbeth (1971) “ The Tragedy of Macbeth” Shakespeare portrays Macbeth at the start of the play as being a noble, loyal, courageous soldier who would fight for king and country.
Duncan quotes “What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won” (Act 1 Scene2). Macbeth is the “Thane of Glamis” but when he hears the witch’s prophecy and how he is then made the “Thane of Cawdor” Macbeth sets his mind on the 3rd prophecy becoming “King”. Shakespeare uses the prophecy to show that Macbeth is easily persuaded to be disloyal. That is where we first see Macbeth’s personality change to him becoming more ambitious. Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 5 of the play is a loyal wife to her husband. Act 1 Scene 5 when she is reading Macbeth’s letter Macbeth quotes “my dearest….. of greatness”.
Macbeth knows that his “Partner” will like the idea of being Queen and seems to offer the news as a kind of present to his wife. During the beginning of the play both Shakespeare and Polanski portray Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s relationship as being strong and devoted to each other. Act 1 Scene 7 Shakespeare shows us that Macbeth’s personality changes before he kills Duncan. In Act 1 Scene 7 during the beginning of this scene Macbeth is against the killing of Duncan when he says, “We……. this business” Shakespeare shows through this quote that Macbeth has a conscience and is more considerate.
He knows that it is the wrong thing to do because he could be charged for treason for killing the king. We know that Macbeth is ambitious because we see this in Act 1 Scene 5 when Lady Macbeth is reading his letter. Lady Macbeth needs to persuade him into killing Duncan because he is “too full o’th’milk of human kindness”. So at this point of the scene Macbeth is the dominant of the two. Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 5 is a kind and loving wife. But in Act 1 scene 7 Shakespeare portrays her as being ruthless, ambitious, evil and persuasive. Macbeth says to her “Bring fort men- children nly,” now Lady Macbeth is acting more like a male then a female by being the dominant one. Even in Act 1 Scene 5 Lady Macbeth says. “Come….. unsex me here….. of direst cruelty. ” She prays to be sex less so she may carry out the deed (murder). In the text Shakespeare describes her clearly but in Polanski’s film we hardly see Lady Macbeth and when we do we cannot see her face clearly so you can’t tell what her facial expressions are. In both versions of the play the Shakespeare and Polanski portray her as being cruel. In Act 2 Scene 2 (the murder of Duncan) Shakespeare shows us that Lady Macbeth is more in ontrol and dominant of what is going on in the scene. Shakespeare does not really talk about the murder of Duncan. So for this scene in my opinion the Polanski’s film is more informative. Polanski portrays the murder scene as if it was live. Polanski shows us the blood and how even as Macbeth was stabbing Duncan he was still hesitating, because in his mind he knew it was the wrong thing to do. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship up to this point is strong because both of them need each other’s trust to carry out the plan. We learn that now Lady Macbeth is more dominant and that
Macbeth is the weak one out of them because he cannot defend himself from his wife. After killing Duncan Macbeth regrets his actions. This shows that he is easily tempted and convinced by his wife: “I could not say Amen. ” Now Macbeth knows that God is no longer with him because of the treason he has committed. In Act3 Macbeth has a new goal, to kill Banquo. This is because he fears of what the witches said that banquo’s son will become king. Also, he fears that Banquo is becoming too curious as to who killed Duncan. Macbeth releases two prisoners who Banquo put in prison and orders them to get 1 / 2 evenge by killing Banquo. This however haunts Macbeth later on in the act because he has not told Lady Macbeth of what he did. In the film Polanski shows that after the murderers kill Banquo Macbeth drowns them in a well. This shows how keen Macbeth was to keeping the throne Shakespeare shows here that Macbeth is power hungry and will stop at nothing. Macbeth is later haunted by banquo’s ghost who makes him seem like he is going mad which he is. Due to Macbeth not telling lady Macbeth about the murder of Duncan their relationship at this point is slowly collapsing as their trust in each other is fading away.
Polanski shows the murder of banquo in more detail by actually showing how the murderers killed banquo. In Shakespeare’s play he does not really show how banquo was murdered. Shakespeare shows Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 7 as being the dominant one. Act 3 Scene 2 Lady Macbeth’s influence on her husband is starting to weaken because she has no idea about murdering of Banquo. Lady Macbeth too is now starting to regret the treason of which they have committed. Both Shakespeare and Polanski do not show this scene as clearly as anticipated. We cannot really tell what Macbeth or Lady Macbeth is actually feeling.
But we do know that Macbeth at this point in time is thinking on what to do next. “O, full……my mind. ” His mind is full of thoughts of which he cannot decide upon. To the end of this scene Shakespeare show Macbeth to be more in control because now he is not paying attention to what his wife has to say. In my opinion neither of them is in control at the end of this scene because they cannot decide on what to do. After the murder of Banquo Macbeth starts to change in Act 3 Scene 4 Macbeth appears to be going mad of power when he starts to see Banquo’s ghost at the banquet table. “Which….. ave done this? ” Polanski shows that when Macbeth is about to take his seat he sees Banquo’s ghost all white and covered blood. Lady Macbeth at this time does not know what is going on with her husband because Macbeth did not tell her about the murder of Banquo. The relationship still trying to keep intact with each other as Macbeth is becoming more power hungry and will not take his wife’s advice this leads to him going mad. Act 5 scene 1 both Shakespeare and Polanski show Lady Macbeth going mad as she is trying to clean the blood of her hand which is just her mind hallucinating.
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Lady Macbeth starts to sleep walk and utter things that she is not supposed to. “Who would have……the old man had so much blood in him? ” By this Lady Macbeth means the murder of Duncan. In the text Shakespeare describes Lady Macbeth as “her eyes are open. ” “But their sense is shut. ” Lady Macbeth now has no control over herself and so she does not know what she is saying because her mind is a sleep yet her body and brain is still awake. Polanski and Shakespeare both now show Macbeth as trying to hang onto power in Act 5 Scene 3, Macbeth quotes “ I’ll fight……. hacked. Macbeth who is now king is still ambitious for power but now is a tyrant. Macbeth is now determined that “none of women born” can harm him. This makes him even more powerful. Act 5 Scene 5 Shakespeare and Polanski both portray the relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth as finally coming to an end as when Macbeth hears the news about his wife’s death he is carless. “There……time…. a word. ” Shakespeare and Polanski both portray Lady Macbeth and Macbeth as being ambitious. Macbeth at the begging of both the play and the film was shown as a hero this later changed to a tragic hero nd by the end of both the play and the film Macbeth became a tyrant so he was portrayed as being good to evil. Lady Macbeth had always been ambitious and ruthless it was only at the start when we first see her as being kind and loving. This changes very quickly. The relationship between them has been conflicting throughout the play and the film. Both Shakespeare and Polanski portray the relationship as being strong to weak. Shakespeare uses strong language to describe Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Polanski uses sharp graphics to show each of them clearly. Powered by TCPDF (www. tcpdf. org) 2 / 2
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