Macbeth Act III Questions and Answers


William Shakespeare

Reading Guide Act III- be sure to 1) answer all the embedded questions 2) use evidence 3) look for opportunities to talk about the literary terms

1) Scene i: What does Banquo say that leads you to think that he suspects Macbeth of having a part in the death of Duncan? What else is he thinking of? What does Macbeth say about the night’s festivities? What information does he get out of Banquo? What does Macbeth say about Malcolm and Donalbain?

When Banquo says that he thinks Macbeth “played’st most foully” for the things the witches promised, we see that Banquo is starting to suspect something suspicious about what has happened and how Macbeth has turned into the king (3.1.3). We see him also thinking about the fact that the crown will not remain in Macbeth’s family line, yet his own. We see him thinking about the fact that he will be the “father of many kings” (3.1.6), thus showing us how he is hoping for his part of the prophecy to come true. Macbeth tells Banquo that the “bloody cousins”(3.1.31) are not confessing to their supposed crimes and that they are probably lying to their host about what they supposedly did. However, Macbeth dismisses the idea very fast. The fact that Macbeth tells Banquo about this just as he is about to leave, shows how he wants Banquo to think about Malcolm and Donalbain murdering the King as he goes on his long ride.

2) Macbeth expresses how he feels now that he is king. How happy is he? What does he fear, and what does he plan to do about it? Look at these phrases: barren sceptre … For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind … gracious Duncan … come fate into the list. (3)

From this soliloquy, we see that Macbeth is unhappy of the fact that he is now king by all the bad deeds he has done. Wee also see him mention how he does not feel safe as there are people like Banquo who may end up stopping him. When he mentions a “barren sceptre” (3.1.63), we see that he sees the things that he has received due to his kingship as lifeless and dull. On a deeper level, we see Macbeth’s concern on how, since the witches named Banquo the father of the kings to follow, he cannot pass on the sceptre or the crown. We also see that he feels he has given up his life, his sleep and everything for Banquo’s sons. He feels that all his wrong doings were for nothing and that he will take the blame for the king’s death while Banquo’s son will inevitably be the king. In the end of this soliloquy, when he says “come fate into the list”, we see that he wants to challenge fate, as he wants his sons to be kings, not Banquo’s.

3) What does Macbeth say to make the two men want to kill Banquo? What is the reason he can’t kill Banquo himself? How excited do they seem to do this? What might be different ways to play these roles?

Macbeth tells the men that men can be classified by one’s speed. He questions their manhood and asks them whether they are t the bottom of such a list or whether they are above. He also tells them that Banquo was the one who put them in the state they are in now. After Macbeth suggests this, the murderers develop the idea by saying that they are fed up of the world’s “vile blows” (3.1.111) and that they want to do something about it. Macbeth also tells them that he cannot do it as they have mutual friends who may end up suspecting him. He mentions that he needs to “wail” (3.1.125) in public to guise himself as a grieved friend. The murderers seem angry with Banquo as the conversation progresses. They don’t seem to be excited during the conversation. If they were excited, they would not seem like men Macbeth tricked into doing bad deeds. This is an interesting seen as we see Macbeth use Lady Macbeths taunts from before Duncan’ murder. We see him question the murderer’s manhood too.

4) Scene ii In lines 4-7 Lady Macbeth describes how she feels now that she is queen. What does she say and what does she mean? When Macbeth enters, what is the first question she asks him? How does this question signify a possible change in their relationship? What advice does she then give him? To what is she referring?

When Lady Macbeth is alone, she starts to reflect on all that has happened. We see that she is unhappy and that she would prefer to be the assassinated rather than the assassin as she feels that by becoming the assassin, she has plunged herself into a world of anxiety. The fact that she says “’tis safer to be that which we destroy”, shows us how she is starting to regret the deeds she has done. The question Lady Macbeth asks as soon as Macbeth enters is, “How now, my lord” (3.2.8). The fact that she asks such a question shows how anxious she is and how true her previous statement is, as she seems anxious. She tells Macbeth that they should stick together so that their minds don’t wander off and think about whom they have killed.

5) What does Macbeth mean when he says, “We have scotch’d the snake, not killed it?” In lines 18-23 what is Macbeth saying about sleep, being with the dead, and Duncan? How does this show you how he is feeling about his life?

6) What response does Lady Macbeth give to her husband? Where has she said similar things to him before? How helpful, in general, is this advice? What does Macbeth say she should do at the banquet that night? He then gives her a hint about what is going to happen before the bats are done their flying for the night. What does he say, and what does he mean? Why doesn’t he tell her more? When she asks for more information, what does he tell her? Why does he say this? Does this make you think more of him or less of him as a person and why?

7) Scene iii: What has happened according to plan? What has not gone according to plan? How will this affect Macbeth’s predicted fate and what he wants to happen?

8) Scene iv Macbeth greets his dinner guests. What seems to be his mood? What does the murderer tell us happened to Banquo and Fleance? What is Macbeth’s reaction?

9) Banquo’s ghost enters. What does Macbeth say and do? How does Lady M respond? What do the other guests think?

10) What does it mean, “It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood.”?

11) Macbeth is angry with Macduff. Why? How does Macbeth show how suspicious he has become?

12) What does Macbeth mean when he says, “We are but young in deed.”?

13) Scene v Some scholars think that this scene was not written by Shakespeare but was added later. Basically Hecate, queen of the witches, chastises the three weird sisters for making predictions to Macbeth without her permission. She tells the three of them to be ready for Macbeth who will come the next day to ask questions. It will be a set up where Macbeth will be lured to “spurn fate, scorn death, and bear/His hopes ‘bove wisdom, grace and fear;” What might this mean?

14) Scene vi We learn that people are now beginning to get suspicious of Macbeth. We also have a summary of all that has gone on so far in the play and hear what Macbeth thinks of Macduff. There is an update on Malcolm. Where is he, and what is he doing? As the scene ends, what impression do you get about the condition of things in Scotland

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