Court of Macbeth's castle.
Enter BANQUO, and FLEANCE bearing a torch before him
BANQUO
How goes the night, boy?
FLEANCE
The moon is down; I have not heard the clock.
BANQUO
And she goes down at twelve.
FLEANCE
I take't, 'tis later, sir.
BANQUO
Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heaven;
Their candles are all out. Take thee that too.
A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,
And yet I would not sleep: merciful powers,
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to in repose!
Enter MACBETH, and a Servant with a torch
Give me my sword.
Who's there?
MACBETH
A friend.
BANQUO
What, sir, not yet at rest? The king's a-bed:
He hath been in unusual pleasure, and
Sent forth great largess to your offices.
This diamond he greets your wife withal,
By the name of most kind hostess; and shut up
In measureless content.
MACBETH
Being unprepared,
Our will became the servant to defect;
Which else should free have wrought.
BANQUO
All's well.
I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters:
To you they have show'd some truth.
MACBETH
I think not of them:
Yet, when we can entreat an hour to serve,
We would spend it in some words upon that business,
If you would grant the time.
BANQUO
At your kind'st leisure.
MACBETH
If you shall cleave to my consent, when 'tis,
It shall make honour for you.
BANQUO
So I lose none
In seeking to augment it, but still keep
My bosom franchised and allegiance clear,
I shall be counsell'd.
MACBETH
Good repose the while!
BANQUO
Thanks, sir: the like to you!
Exeunt BANQUO and FLEANCE
MACBETH
Go bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed.
Exit Servant
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one halfworld
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,
Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
A bell rings
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.
Exit

The castle was sleeping off the merrymaking of the banquet when Banquo and his son Fleance were in the courtyard of Macbeth's castle. Fleance used a torch to guide them.

 

“What time is it, son?”

 

“The moon's gone down, sir, but I haven't heard the clock.”

 

“The moon goes down at twelve.”

 

“I assume it's later than that, sir.”

 

“Hold my sword. Look at the sky, how dark it is! Heaven is cutting back on the candles! My eyes are heavier than lead but I can't sleep. God, restrain the cursed thoughts that fill my dreams!”

 

Banquo was tense and agitated. He thought about the weird sisters, the uncanny accuracy of their prophecies. The prospect of a bloody future unnerved him. Banquo heard footsteps crunch the gravel of the courtyard before a torchlight could be discerned.

 

“My sword! Who's there?”

 

“Your friend, Macbeth.”

 

Macbeth appeared accompanied by a servant.

 

“What, sir, not yet asleep?” Banquo asked. “The King has gone to bed. He's a happy man tonight! He tipped your staff well and he has a diamond he wishes to give his kind hostess. He went to bed immeasurably happy!”

 

“Being unprepared, we were worried about being inadequate hosts.”

 

“All's well.” Banquo paused and stared at Macbeth. “Last night I dreamt of the three weird sisters. They certainly let you see some truths!”

 

“I haven't thought about them. But one day when we have an hour to spare we must talk about that business.”

 

“Name the day.”

 

“If you give me your support when it's needed I'll reward you.”

 

“If my honour can remain intact and my allegiance unchallenged then I'll be your council.”

 

Banquo felt his bleakest suspicions were going to be confirmed.

 

“Meanwhile, sleep well,” said Macbeth.

 

“Thanks, sir. You, too.”

 

Banquo and Fleance left for their chamber. Macbeth turned to his servant: “Tell my wife to ring the bell when my drink is ready and then you retire yourself.”

 

The servant left and Macbeth stood alone in the darkness. His mind was awash with doubt and determination. But then in his confusion something strange seized his attention: “Is this a dagger I see before me? Is its handle pointing to my own hand? Here, let me hold you! I can't grab the dagger but I still see it there! It can be seen but can't be touched. Or is it just a dagger of the mind? Is it a false creation from my troubled brain? Yes! No, no, no! It's still there just as palpable as the dagger I now draw from my sheath. Look, it points me in the way I intend to go! A dagger was the weapon I was planning to use! My eyes are being ridiculed! Or are they worth more than all my other senses combined? It's still there! Now the dagger is spattered with blood! The bloody business that fills my mind is making me see this. Half the world is now sleeping - wicked dreams abuse the peace of man. Witches sacrifice their offering to Hecate. Howling wolves tell murderers now is the time and serenade Tarquin as he stalks his prey. The hard dry earth mustn't hear my footsteps now. Even the stones mustn't be allowed to betray my whereabouts. Nothing must detract from the deed. Now is the time! All this talk only prolongs his life. How words cool the heat of the moment!”

 

The apparition convinced Macbeth that all the forces of the unknown were with him, guiding him to his royal destiny. Just then a bell rang, the signal from Lady Macbeth.

 

“Ah, the bell! It's almost done. Duncan, don't hear the knell for it summons you to heaven - or to hell!”