‘Banquet Scene’ in ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare.


Comment on the ‘Banquet Scene’ (Act III, Scene IV) in ‘Macbeth.’

The famous banquet scene (Act III, Scene IV) presents a very critical turn in the development of the plot in ‘Macbeth.’ The process of Macbeth’s self-debasement which has started ever since he contemplated the murder of Duncan is exposed in this scene. It is dramatically important that Macbeth has got Banquo killed just before the commencement of the Royal Banquet. The scene also shows the immediate impact of Banquo’s murder on Macbeth. It is at the beginning of the scene that the hired murderer confirms Macbeth in periphrastic terms that Banquo is “safe in a ditch…/with twenty gashes on his head.” Moreover, it is in this scene that Lady Macbeth displays her resourcefulness for the last time in the play.

Even as he is regretting to the assembled guests the absence of Banquo, he finds, to his horror, the latter’s ghost seated in his chair. Macbeth shouts to the ghost not to shake his “gory locks” at him. Ross attributes Macbeth’s strange conduct to some unspecified ailment (“his highness is not well.”) and Lady Macbeth describes the fit as “momentary.” But the reappearance of the ghost of Banquo makes it even more difficult for Lady Macbeth to keep up appearances. Macbeth’s complicity in murderous acts is even more glaringly revealed at that time. He asks Banquo’s ghost to go away:

“…quit my sight! Let the earth hide three! Thy bones are marrowless, and thy blood is cold.”

Vainly does Lady Macbeth try to convince Macbeth that what he has seen is nothing but “the painting of your fear.” She scolds Macbeth by saying that his conduct is unbecoming of a man:

…these flaws and starts……would well become/ A woman’s story at a winter’s fire, Authorized by her grandam.’

But the vision Macbeth sees is not due to his lack of physical courage; he claims:

What man dare, I dare: /Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear, /The arm’d rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger/ take any shape but that, and my firm nerve/ Shall ever tremble-or be alive again…”

His fear arises from his guilt-ridden consciousness. The presentation of Banquo’s ghost is looked upon as the finest example of Shakespeare’s introduction of the supernatural. Here Banquo’s ghost is purely subjective because nobody else except Macbeth in the banquet hall sees it. Professor Nicoll has described Banquo’s ghost as the most immaterial of all Shakespeare’s ghosts presented by Shakespeare. We see that the supernatural is some way or other connected with the psychology of the protagonist. What Macbeth calls “unreal mockery” and “horrible shadow” makes him feel even more insecure and makes him even more blood-thirsty. Here we can conclude the discussion with Bernard Groom’s remarks:
On Macbeth, the final effect of the banquet scene is to complete his moral blindness; nothing is to stand between him and security.”
Work-cited page
1. Hubbard, S. (2016) Macbeth by William Shakespeare. London: Hodder Education.
2. Macbeth: Notes (2009). Toronto, ON: Coles Publishing.
3. Moschovakis, N.R. (2008) Macbeth: New critical essays. London: Routledge.

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