Charachter Analysis Banquo Essay, Research Paper
Throughout Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Banquo is a foil to Macbeth. Banquo’s logic and restraint contrasts Macbeth’s erupting ambition and recklessness. Shakespeare created two opposite characters, Banquo and Macbeth who server to foil each other. A foil is someone or something that serves to contrast another; Banquo and Macbeth foil each other. Macbeth is eager, determined, and aggressive. Banquo is reserved, calm, rational and cautious.
The play opens with Macbeth and Banquo returning from a battle with the Norwegians. They both receive very ambitious prophecies from the three witches. Banquo takes his prediction in half-jest and cautions Macbeth from placing too much faith in the witches. By the end of the play, Macbeth is convinced by the three weird witches and by his wife to fulfill the prophecies (that he will be thane of Glamis and king). Banquo and Macbeth react differently, Macbeth considers killing the king, and does, while Banquo calmly ignores such urges.
Act I, scene two, sets the reckless and fast-paced mood for the rest of the play. a wounded captain tells King Duncan how Macbeth honorably killed Macdonwald and how he and Banquo later withstood an attack from the Norwegian King. Duncan sees Banquo and Macbeth as heroes and honorable soldiers. To reward “brave Macbeth”(act 1,sc.ii, 17) Duncan tells Ross to give the traitors former position (”Thane of Cawdor”) to Macbeth. Macbeth and Banquo are both valiant soldiers and are nearly equals (their only difference is that Macbeth is credited with killing Macdonwald).
Scene iii is crucial to the rest of the play and to Banquo’s role as Macbeth’s foil. In this scene, the three witches greet Macbeth and Banquo with predictions for each: Macbeth is referred to as the “Thane of Cawdor”(which Ross has not yet delivered), the “Thane of Glamis” (his present title) and, most notably, as “King hereafter” while Banquo is told that “thou shalt get kings, though thou be none”(act 1,sciii,68)(meaning that he will never be king but eventually father kings). After their meeting with the three witches, Macbeth and Banquo meet Ross and Angus who inform Macbeth of his new title as Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo then discuss their predictions and Banquo again warns Macbeth to be wary of the witches:
“But ’tis strange. And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray ’s in deepest consequence.+ Cousins, a word, I pray you.”(act 1,sc. iii, 134-139)
This scene is fundamental for the rest of the play; the witches make predictions that set the stage and mood for the rest of the play.
Macbeth also muses to himself the possibility of killing Duncan. Disturbed by his own wickedness, he resolves to let fate take its course: “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir.”(act 1,sc.iii,157-160)
The next notable occurrence of Banquo balancing Macbeth is in act two, scene one. Banquo tells Fleance that he is afraid to sleep and that he is disturbed by his struggles with “cursed thoughts” from the witches. Macbeth enters, and Banquo tells him that he dreamed of the witches and is scared by the truth in their predictions. Macbeth responds by lying to Banquo, that he “think not of them” when in fact he was convinced to kill Duncan, by his wife in the previous scene (act 1,sc.vii). This exchange is important because it shows that Banquo has also thought of the witches’ gossip. Yet he contains himself, becoming rational and cautious. Conversely, Macbeth has already plotted to kill the king and fulfill the prophecy.
In act II, scene three, Banquo(after Macbeth and Lady Macbeth kill Duncan), Banquo responds to the news with distress and confusion but given more time, he plans further action to weed-out the traitor and gives evidence of his suspicion of Macbeth:
“And when we have our naked frailties hid, that suffer in exposure, let us meet and question this most bloody piece of work to know it further. Fears and scruples shake us. In the great hand of God I stand, and thence against the undivulged pretense I fight of treasonous malice.” (act 2, sc.iii, 148-154)
Here Banquo hints that he has suspicions and he advises people to take time to compose their thoughts and formalize their hunches before action is taken. This shows that Banquo is a calm, logical and reserved character.
In act III, scene one, Banquo enters first and speaks to himself noting that all the predictions the weird witches made for Macbeth have come true. Without being convinced, if Macbeth had killed Duncan, he articulates his suspicion of Macbeth: “I fear thou played’st most foully for ‘t.” (act 3,i,3) Banquo also acknowledges his prediction but affirms that he will do nothing to speed it’s coming:
” 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 by my oracles as well, and set me up in hope? But hush, no more.”(act 3, sc.i, 5-10)
After a short exchange with Macbeth, Banquo exits and Macbeth speaks with the two hired assassins. Macbeth makes it clear that they will kill Banquo, but he attempts to disguise his reason by convincing them that “that it was he, in the times past, which held you so under fortune…”(act 3, sc.i, 84-85)
In act three, scene three, Banquo is, as arranged my Macbeth, murdered by the assassins while Fleance manages to escape.
Banquo’s death is the ultimate contrast to his personality: He warns Macbeth of the inherent danger in believing the witches and although he suffers from the same wicked thoughts as Macbeth, he resolves not to act rashly. Macbeth, on the other hand, is prodded (persuaded) by his wife and lured by the apparent truths of the three witches.
Macbeth and Banquo each have opposite personalities: Macbeth is ambitious and eager to fulfill his prophecies as opposed to Banquo, who is reserved, thoughtful and cautious. Banquo frequently warns Macbeth of the dangers in trusting the witches, but Macbeth ignores him. Each of these characters was presented with a similar situation and they reacted oppositely. Their actions give us insight to their character (specific main actions). Banquo’s calming and logical action reflects his nature while Macbeth’s rash actions reveals his opposite character. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses Banquo and Macbeth’s personalities to contrast and balance the play. The character foils in Macbeth are an example of Shakespeare’s predilection for powerfully presenting two sides of an argument (the famous, “to be or not to be” speech from Hamlet, for example).