Forres. The palace.
Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all,
As the weird women promised, and, I fear,
Thou play'dst most foully for't: yet it was said
It should not stand in thy posterity,
But that myself should be the root and father
Of many kings. If there come truth from them--
As upon thee, Macbeth, their speeches shine--
Why, by the verities on thee made good,
May they not be my oracles as well,
And set me up in hope? But hush! no more.
Sennet sounded. Enter MACBETH, as king, LADY MACBETH, as queen, LENNOX, ROSS, Lords, Ladies, and Attendants
Here's our chief guest.
If he had been forgotten,
It had been as a gap in our great feast,
And all-thing unbecoming.
To-night we hold a solemn supper sir,
And I'll request your presence.
Let your highness
Command upon me; to the which my duties
Are with a most indissoluble tie
For ever knit.
Ride you this afternoon?
Ay, my good lord.
We should have else desired your good advice,
Which still hath been both grave and prosperous,
In this day's council; but we'll take to-morrow.
Is't far you ride?
As far, my lord, as will fill up the time
'Twixt this and supper: go not my horse the better,
I must become a borrower of the night
For a dark hour or twain.
Fail not our feast.
My lord, I will not.
We hear, our bloody cousins are bestow'd
In England and in Ireland, not confessing
Their cruel parricide, filling their hearers
With strange invention: but of that to-morrow,
When therewithal we shall have cause of state
Craving us jointly. Hie you to horse: adieu,
Till you return at night. Goes Fleance with you?
Ay, my good lord: our time does call upon 's.
I wish your horses swift and sure of foot;
And so I do commend you to their backs. Farewell.
Let every man be master of his time
Till seven at night: to make society
The sweeter welcome, we will keep ourself
Till supper-time alone: while then, God be with you!
Exeunt all but MACBETH, and an attendant
Sirrah, a word with you: attend those men
Our pleasure?
They are, my lord, without the palace gate.
Bring them before us.
Exit Attendant
To be thus is nothing;
But to be safely thus.--Our fears in Banquo
Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature
Reigns that which would be fear'd: 'tis much he dares;
And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,
He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour
To act in safety. There is none but he
Whose being I do fear: and, under him,
My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said,
Mark Antony's was by Caesar. He chid the sisters
When first they put the name of king upon me,
And bade them speak to him: then prophet-like
They hail'd him father to a line of kings:
Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,
Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If 't be so,
For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind;
For them the gracious Duncan have I murder'd;
Put rancours in the vessel of my peace
Only for them; and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!
Rather than so, come fate into the list.
And champion me to the utterance! Who's there!
Re-enter Attendant, with two Murderers
Now go to the door, and stay there till we call.
Exit Attendant
Was it not yesterday we spoke together?
First Murderer
It was, so please your highness.
Well then, now
Have you consider'd of my speeches? Know
That it was he in the times past which held you
So under fortune, which you thought had been
Our innocent self: this I made good to you
In our last conference, pass'd in probation with you,
How you were borne in hand, how cross'd,
the instruments,
Who wrought with them, and all things else that might
To half a soul and to a notion crazed
Say 'Thus did Banquo.'
First Murderer
You made it known to us.
I did so, and went further, which is now
Our point of second meeting. Do you find
Your patience so predominant in your nature
That you can let this go? Are you so gospell'd
To pray for this good man and for his issue,
Whose heavy hand hath bow'd you to the grave
And beggar'd yours for ever?
First Murderer
We are men, my liege.
Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men;
As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,
Shoughs, water-rugs and demi-wolves, are clept
All by the name of dogs: the valued file
Distinguishes the swift, the slow, the subtle,
The housekeeper, the hunter, every one
According to the gift which bounteous nature
Hath in him closed; whereby he does receive
Particular addition. from the bill
That writes them all alike: and so of men.
Now, if you have a station in the file,
Not i' the worst rank of manhood, say 't;
And I will put that business in your bosoms,
Whose execution takes your enemy off,
Grapples you to the heart and love of us,
Who wear our health but sickly in his life,
Which in his death were perfect.
Second Murderer
I am one, my liege,
Whom the vile blows and buffets of the world
Have so incensed that I am reckless what
I do to spite the world.
First Murderer
And I another
So weary with disasters, tugg'd with fortune,
That I would set my lie on any chance,
To mend it, or be rid on't.
Both of you
Know Banquo was your enemy.
Both Murderers
True, my lord.
So is he mine; and in such bloody distance,
That every minute of his being thrusts
Against my near'st of life: and though I could
With barefaced power sweep him from my sight
And bid my will avouch it, yet I must not,
For certain friends that are both his and mine,
Whose loves I may not drop, but wail his fall
Who I myself struck down; and thence it is,
That I to your assistance do make love,
Masking the business from the common eye
For sundry weighty reasons.
Second Murderer
We shall, my lord,
Perform what you command us.
First Murderer
Though our lives--
Your spirits shine through you. Within this hour at most
I will advise you where to plant yourselves;
Acquaint you with the perfect spy o' the time,
The moment on't; for't must be done to-night,
And something from the palace; always thought
That I require a clearness: and with him--
To leave no rubs nor botches in the work--
Fleance his son, that keeps him company,
Whose absence is no less material to me
Than is his father's, must embrace the fate
Of that dark hour. Resolve yourselves apart:
I'll come to you anon.
Both Murderers
We are resolved, my lord.
I'll call upon you straight: abide within.
Exeunt Murderers
It is concluded. Banquo, thy soul's flight,
If it find heaven, must find it out to-night.

Banquo paced the corridors of Forres palace. His mind was preoccupied by the turn of events. “You have it all now,” he said to himself, “King, Cawdor, and Glamis, just as the weird women promised. And I fear you played a foul hand to get it. Yet it was said your title would not last into posterity, but that I myself would be root and father of a line of kings. If their promises become truths for you, can't the weird sisters be my oracles, too?” He was excited and tempted by the supernatural just as much as Macbeth. His musings were disturbed by the heralding of the arrival of the Macbeths, now King and Queen. I can’t be thinking of this now, Banquo told himself. He greeted the royal party with a bow.


“Here's our chief guest!” said Macbeth.


“If he had been overlooked his absence from our feast would have been unbecoming,” the Queen whispered to Macbeth.


“Tonight we are holding a solemn supper, Banquo, and I request your presence.”


“Let your highness command me of my duties. My loyalty is indissoluble.”


“Are you riding this afternoon?”


“Yes, my Lord.”


“Ah, we would have benefited from your participation at today's council. Your advice is always serious and good. We can talk tomorrow. Are you riding far?” Macbeth asked.


“As far as I can between now and supper. If my horse isn't fast I will have to ride an hour or two in darkness.”


“Well, remember to be back for our feast,” Macbeth said.


“My, lord I will.”


“We hear our blood-stained cousins are fugitives in England and Ireland,” Mavbeth said. “They won’t admit their patricide but instead fill anyone who will listen with stories of macabre invention. But we will discuss that tomorrow when I wish to deal with matters which concern us jointly. Well, farewell and till this evening. Is Fleance going with you?”


“Yes, Your Majesty. We must go.”


“I wish you a fast and stable run! Farewell!”


As Banquo left Macbeth turned and told the company, “Everyone can occupy themselves however they wish until seven this evening. To make our welcome more relaxing we will keep ourselves to ourselves until then. God be with you!”


The court dispersed leaving only Macbeth and a manservant.


“Come here a moment,” Macbeth said to the servant. “Are those men here?”


“They are, my lord, outside the palace gate.”


“Bring them in.”


As the servant went to fetch the men he asked for, Macbeth was again consumed by the implications of his bloody deed. “To be king is not enough, I must also be a safe king. I must be wary of Banquo: his nature is ruled by a fearless streak. But he also has the acumen to be brave without being impetuous or rash. He is the only one I fear. Near him I feel shackled... intimidated. They say Mark Antony felt this way about Caesar. When the weird sisters first said I would be king Banquo chided them and insisted they foretell his future. Then like prophets they hailed him the father of a line of kings. On my head they have placed a sterile crown and in my hand I hold a seedless sceptre, which is to be seized by a man who is not kin, denying my own line. If that is to be so, then it has been for Banquo that I have murdered a gracious king and haunted myself. I've succumbed to the temptations of Satan for Banquo and his sons! No! Rather than that I will challenge Fate to the death!”


His line of thinking was interrupted by a knock. It reminded him of the night of the murder.


“Who's there?”


The servant entered with two men Macbeth had asked for. Macbeth gestured the two men to a corner and instructed the servant to wait outside the door until he called.


“Wasn't it yesterday we spoke together?” Macbeth asked the men.


“It was, Your Highness,” the first man said.


“Well then have you considered our discussion? You know that in the past it was Banquo who was responsible for your misfortunes, when you actually thought it had been me, as I explained this to you at our last meeting. I clarified to you how Banquo deceived you, the people he used, and their methods. Enough evidence for even a fool or a crazed soul to see it was Banquo.”


“You made it clear to us,” the first man said.


“I did and I went further, which is now the point of our second meeting. Can your patience endure suffering to the point of forgiveness? Are you so God-fearing that you'll pray for this good man and his sons, when his tyranny has bent you to the grave and impoverished your families forever?”


“We are merely men, sir!”


“Yes, but in the catalogue you are men much as hounds, greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, strays, shaggy dogs, water dogs and shepherd dogs are all called dog. A more refined register distinguishes the swift, the slow, the subtle, the guard dog, the hunter. Each one has a special gift from nature which distinguishes it from the anonymous ranks of dogs. It's the same with men. Now, if your station is above the lowest rank say so and I'll give you a job that will remove your enemy from your sight and raise you in my esteem. My health is suspect while he lives, his death would be the antidote.”


“I am a man, my liege,” said the second man, “who has suffered from the vile blows and gusts of the world to the extent that I don't care what is involved to spite the world.”


“And I'm another. So weary with cruelties and battered by misfortune that I'd risk my life on anything that could mend it.”


“To both of you Banquo is the enemy.”


“True, my lord.” both men said in unison.


“He is also mine! So close is the threat that every beat of his heart is like a piercing in mine. I could banish him quite openly but I can't since certain friends of his are friends of mine and I need their loyalty. I will wail at the death I have arranged for him. That's why I need your help to hide from the common eye the intricacies of our business. Solely, you understand, for reasons of state.”


“We shall, my lord,” said the second man, “perform what you command of us.”


“Though our lives-” the first man said, not being able to finish before Macbeth interrupted:


“Your spirits shine through you! Within the hour I'll tell you where to hide and when will be the best time to do it. It must be tonight and make sure it's not near the palace. Bear in mind I can't be implicated. Just to make sure everything is settled, Fleance, his son, who will be with him, must share the same fate. His removal is no less important. Discuss it between yourselves. I'll speak to you later.”


“We don't need to discuss it, my lord,” the first man said, with the second nodding in agreement.


“I'll be with you soon. Stay in my antechamber.” Both men left and again Macbeth was gripped by power.


“That's it then! Banquo, if your soul is destined for heaven, it will be there tonight.”