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Summary and Detailed Notes for Act III of Macbeth

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Brief Summary of Act III

Promise of Kingship
Banquo is promised kingship by the Weird Women. Macbeth invites him to a feast, and they plan to discuss the news of their “bloody cousins” tomorrow.

Murder Plan
Macbeth plots to kill Banquo and his descendants to secure his own power, and orders two murderers to do so. Macbeth commands two murderers to kill Banquo, who is both his and their enemy, for certain reasons. Banquo is returning to court tonight; Macbeth and Lady Macbeth resolve to act despite danger; Duncan is dead and cannot be harmed further.

Murder Attempt
Macbeth and three murderers plan to kill Banquo and Fleance; Fleance escapes while Macbeth exclaims “O treachery!” Three Murderers attack and kill; Fleance escapes; Macbeth thanks Murderer for killing Banquo; Lady Macbeth welcomes guests to feast.

Ghost of Banquo
Summary: Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo and is disturbed; Lady Macbeth tries to comfort him; Macbeth questions the ghost and fears it.

Macbeth’s Fear
Macbeth confronts a ghost and is urged by Lady Macbeth to remain calm; he is overwhelmed by fear.

Seeking Answers
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan to seek the Weird Sisters for answers; Hecate is angry with the Witches for helping Macbeth. Macbeth will meet someone to learn his destiny; Hecate will use spells and charms to draw him to his confusion; Macduff lives in disgrace.
Macduff in England
Macduff has gone to England to seek aid from Edward to restore peace and prosperity. He hopes to enlist Edward’s help in fighting against Macbeth, who has taken Scotland’s throne by force.

Edward’s Aid
Macduff pleads with Edward to lend his aid and support. Edward agrees, offering Macduff a thousand soldiers to fight alongside him against Macbeth. This will enable the Scottish people to regain their country and restore peace and justice.

Detailed Notes on Act 3

Macbeth and Banquo’s Conversation in Act 3 Scene 1

•Macbeth and Banquo discuss the Weird Women’s predictions and Banquo’s posterity.

•Banquo is invited to the supper at Macbeth’s.

•Macbeth and Banquo discuss their “bloody cousins” in England and Ireland.

•Banquo and Fleance depart for a ride till supper time.

•Macbeth bids farewell to the lords and requests them to return at night.

Macbeth’s Deception of His Murderers

•Macbeth speaks with the two murderers, asking if they remember their last conversation and if they have considered his speeches.

•He reveals that he was the one who held them under fortune and he made this clear in their last conversation.

•Macbeth then explains that they should now proceed to their second meeting, the point which they had previously discussed.

Macbeth’s Plea to the Murderers

•Macbeth asks the murderers if they are so patient that they can let this go, and if they are so devoted to prayer that they can forgive him for what he has done.

•He compares men to dogs, and states that they each have different gifts, depending on the situation.

•He then reveals that he and Banquo are enemies, and he needs their help to mask the business from the public’s eye.

•He pleads with them to do as he commands, even if it may cost them their lives.
Macbeth: A Summary

•Macbeth plans to acquire a perfect spy of the time to help with his plan.

•Banquo’s soul must find out heaven that night.

•Lady Macbeth inquires about Banquo’s whereabouts and sends a servant to the king.

•Macbeth realizes he has only scorched the snake, not killed it.

•Duncan is in his grave and treason cannot touch him.

•Lady Macbeth urges Macbeth to be bright and jovial among his guests.

Macbeth: Banquo’s Fate

•Banquo and Fleance are asked to leave their honors in “these flattering streams” (F1157).

•Lady Macbeth is filled with guilt and feels Banquo and Fleance must be left unharmed (F1175).

•Macbeth instructs her to keep innocent of this knowledge (F1184).

•Three Murderers enter, and Macbeth instructs them to stand with them (F1206).

•Banquo and Fleance enter, and the Murderers stand to it (F1209).

•Banquo senses treachery and urges Fleance to fly (F1213).

Macbeth Scene 4 – Banquet Prepared

•The three Murderers attack and the son, Fleance, exits.

•Macbeth invites guests to a banquet, and Lady Macbeth requests their welcome.

•A Murderer enters and reveals Banquo is dead, and that Fleance has escaped.

•Macbeth expresses distress that Fleance escaped and orders the Murderer to leave.

•Lady Macbeth reassures Macbeth and welcomes the guests to the banquet.

Macbeth’s Encounter with the Ghost of Banquo

•Macbeth is invited to a dinner, and is asked to join the royal company.

•The ghost of Banquo appears and takes Macbeth’s place.

•Macbeth laments the absence of Banquo and blames himself for it.

•Lady Macbeth urges Macbeth to go on, and not be affected by the ghost.

•Macbeth is asked if he is a man, and responds boldly.

•The ghost challenges Macbeth, who then remarks that the dead will come back to haunt them.

Lady Macbeth and Macbeth Encounter a Ghost

•Lady Macbeth scolds Macbeth for shedding blood before, which he brings up to explain the ghost’s appearance.

•Macbeth and Lady Macbeth share a toast with their guests, and Macbeth addresses the ghost.

•Macbeth challenges the ghost to a fight, and Lady Macbeth attempts to console him.

•Macbeth realizes that the ghost is not real, and bids it farewell.

•Ross and Lennox note the disruption caused by the ghost.

•Macbeth reflects on his fear and wonders if such things can be.

Macbeth – Hecate’s Anger

•Hecate is angry with the witches for trading and trafficking with Macbeth in riddles and affairs of death without her involvement.

•She accuses them of using their charms for a wayward son who loves only for his own ends.

•She demands they make amends.

Analysis of Macbeth Act 3, Scenes 5-6

•Macbeth is preparing to meet his destiny at the pit of Acheron, and has plans to raise artificial sprites to confuse him.

•Lennox and another Lord enter, and Lennox reflects on how strange it was for Malcolm and Donalbain to kill their father.

•Macbeth has reacted to the news of Duncan’s death with pious rage, tearing the two delinquents that denied it.

•Lennox reflects on how Macbeth would react if he had Duncan’s sons under his key.

•He also reflects on how Fleance could be in danger.

•News is heard that Macduff is living in disgrace.

Macduff’s Departure to the English Court

•Macduff is gone to the English court to seek aid from the pious King Edward in order to restore peace to Scotland.

•The King is so enraged by the news that he is preparing for war.

•Lennox suggests that Macduff be cautious and keep his distance.

•He suggests that a holy angel be sent to England to deliver the message before Macduff arrives to ensure a swift blessing on Scotland.

•Macduff will send his prayers with the angel.

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