ISC Class 12 Macbeth Act 3 Summary
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 1 Summary
The scene begins with Banquo’s soliloquies. Banquo in this soliloquy suggests his susceptibility to temptation. Macbeth has got what the witches had promised. Macbeth has been crowned as the king of Scotland, and the scene is laid in the hall of his palace at Forres, Scotland. The scene opens with a soliloquy of Banquo which reveals that the poison of the witches is working on him too.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, now arrayed as king and queen. Macbeth makes some enquiry about Banquo’s movements before Banquo leaves to go riding. Macbeth, who fears Banquo for his integrity and noble qualities, arranges for his murder, and the murder of Fleance by two murderers whose minds he poisons against Banquo.
All go away, and Macbeth is left alone on the stage. He has already hired two murderers and now he calls them. He instigated them against Banquo and his son tells them that, if they murder the two, they will only get his friendship, love and affection, but would also be suitably rewarded. They can easily do the deed: as Banquo and Fleance return to the castle by nightfall. The murderers promise to do so.
The scene marks the turning point in the development of the plot. Macbeth launches on a career of murder. His degeneration is suggested. He has developed vices like hypocrisy, falsehood and criminality. He is becoming a villain. The hero is turned into villain. Banquo is also tempted. His degeneration is also shown. He gives way to temptation.
Secondly, he meekly offers loyalty to Macbeth. He becomes an accessory after the murder. He forgets his earlier promise to expose the undivulged pretence of treasonous malice. He forgers his boasts that he will not lose his sense of honour in augmenting it. Macbeth, however exalts him as a man. This characterisation of Banquo is baffling.
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 2 Summary
In another room in the royal palace, Lady Macbeth, aware of her husband’s obsessive involvement with the murder of Duncan, tries to restore his assurance and cheerfulness. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are seen together after the crime of Duncan’s murder. Lady Macbeth is in despair – she knows that they have satisfied their desire without contentment.
They are doomed to live in ‘doubtful joy’. When Macbeth appears, Lady advises him to give up his sorry fancies and not to consider deeply. But she herself cannot get rid of his thoughts. Macbeth shows his desperate mood of destroying the universal order before he eats his meal and sleeps in fear. This shows that he, like Lady Macbeth, lives in doubtful joy. His desperate mood is followed by despondency. He like Lady Macbeth feels that Duncan in his grave sleeps without fear of treason and enmity.
He envies Duncan’s condition because he is living in fear and doubt. Lady Macbeth asks her husband to be jovial among the guests in the banquet. Macbeth wants his wife to pay particular attention to Banquo. He has planned the murder of Duncan but has kept it from his wife. Husband and wife are drifting apart…. The scene is important for psychological reactions of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth after the murder of Duncan.
Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are distracted by fear and remorse. Macbeth is oscillating between a mood of despair and that of desperation. Lady Macbeth’s misery is gnawing at her heart and making her more and more listless. The easy familiarity and intimacy of man and wife has gone. The troubled soul of Lady Macbeth is revealed by the following words of hers;
Nought’s had, all’s spent,
Where our desire is got without content
‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy
Macbeth’s soul is equally tortured :
O, full of scorpion is my mind, dear wife :
Thou know’st that Banquo and Fleance, live
But nature’s “copy in them is not eternal”, and before nightfall a dreadful deed would be done which would bring relief to his tortured soul. Of course, he refers to the murder of Banquo and Fleance, though he does not tell so to Kady Macbeth.
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 3 Summary
It is now sunset. The two murderers joined by a third one whom Macbeth has sent on order to see if things are well done take their station little outside the castle where Banquo might be expected to get down in order to follow a footpath across the path across the park. Banquo arrives shortly accompanied by Fleance and a servant carrying a torch. The murderers set upon the party at once and Banquo is slain, but Fleance flies in darkness.
This melodramatic scene in which the murder, unlike Duncan’s is commonly on the stage, is theatrically very effective. The scene also confirms the growing suspicion and insecurity in Macbeth’s mind. Macbeth is getting to trust no one. So, he sends a third murderer to make sure the job is done. Though Banquo is brutally murdered, Fleance escapes. So the task is half done and the escape of Fleance will continue to torture Macbeth.
Macbeth Act 3 Scene 4 Summary
The scene is laid in the banquet hall of Macbeth’s palace at Forces. It is already dinner time, the dinner is sweet, and the guests are all assembled. Only Banquo and Fleance have not yet arrived. One of the murderers arrives to tell him that Banquo is dead, but Fleancw has escaped. Only half of what he had ordered has been done. Macbeth is much agitated and he asks the murderer to go away at the time, but meet him again the next day.
As the banquet proceeds, the murderers come and inform Macbeth of the killing of Banquo and escape of Fleance. Macbeth comes back to the hall and cheers the guests. As he goes to occupy his chair, he finds to his surprise and dismay the ghost of Banquo. He is startled and frightened, and begins his ravings. Lady Macbeth has to use all her energies to save the situation. The ghost disappears for a time and Macbeth regains his composure.
But the ghost reappears, and Macbeth relapses into distraction, and begins his delirium. Lady Macbeth tries hard to compose him, but fails. She at last dismisses the party, saying that Macbeth is not well. The delirious talks of Macbeth disclose his crime. Lady Macbeth requests the guests not to talk to Macbeth but leave them at once without any formality. Thus she saves the situation, though the guests have their own doubts and some idea of the crimes that Macbeth has committed.
The ghost disappears and Macbeth again regains a measure of self control. Macbeth now believes that Macduff is his worst enemy because he stays away from the banquet. He resolves to meet the witches to know the worst means. Now he comes a confirmed criminal.The following speech of his reveals his future plans;
There’s not one of them but I his house
I keep a servant feed. I will to-morrow
(And betimes I will) to the weird Sisters :
More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know,
By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good.
All causes shall give way; I am in blood
Steep’d in 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. even they may be scanned
Thus he prophesied to launch a career of crimes and murders. The curtain falls as they retire for the night. The ghost in this scene is entirely subjective, for it is seen only by Macbeth, and by none else. He is in a state of extreme agitation and so he has hallucinations. The ghost is as much a subjective phenomenon as the “air borne dagger” which he had seen on the eve of the murder of Duncan. It is a product of Macbeth’s excitable imagination and heated brain.
The scene is laid on a desolate heath. There is thunder and lightning and the witches with their Queen Hecate cast their wicked spells. The witches have made prophecies in Macbeth without consulting her. She rebukes the Witches for not consulting her in their dealings with Macbeth. She takes them to task for their audacity to meddle in such matters, and then departs asking them to meet her again next morning “at the pit of Acheron”, where Macbeth will again come to interview them and where they must be ready with the Chief ingredients of their charm. Their magic,
Shall raise such artificial sprites
As, by the strength of their illusion,
Shall drawcord on to his confusion;
He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear
His hopes, above wisdom, grace and fear;
And you all know, security
Is mortals chiefest enemy
Security is mortals chieftest enemy, and they would make Macbeth feel secure and so hasten his downfall. In the ‘witches’ silent submission to Hecate’s reproof, there is an image of unquestioned authority, which stands in sharp contrast to the proceeding disordered banquet. The last scene of Act III is a choice commentary. The scene is laid outside the palace of Macbeth in Forres, Scotland. It is a “Chorus scene”; it does not further the action of the play, but provides much useful information.
At Forres, Lenox, conversing with another Lord, tells him that all who have contorted closely with Macbeth have suffered for it. People have begun to see through Macbeth, and there are ironic references to his actions. Macduff did not come to his coronation and so Macbeth is angry with him. He may be the next to be taken off. Macbeth has grown a tyrant. and dissatisfaction and revolt against him are mounting.
His Lords have begun to suspect him and Macduff is fled to England. Nemesis will soon overtake Macbeth. The people of Scotland cannot eat and sleep in peace. A king creates a kingdom in his own image and Macbeth, unable to eat and sleep in quiet. has caused the same to be true of his country.
Macbeth’s companion informs him that Macduff has gone to England to enlist the English King’s support for Malcolm against Macbeth. The scene shows how the opposition to Macbeth is steadily building up. His evil deeds are revealing upon him and his downfall is now only a matter of time.