The Legitimacy Of Banquo In William Shakespeare's Macbeth

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For the audience, the confirmation of the Witches’ initial prophecy regarding Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor causes us to tentatively accept their truthfulness. But for an Elizabethan audience, their legitimacy would have seemed unquestionable, given their prediction regarding Banquo’s descendants becoming kings, their current ruler’s supposed lineage (Bradley 222). By implicating his king in the prophecies of the play, Shakespeare must surely have intended them to be accepted in their entirety. So how then are we the audience meant to judge Macbeth’s actions, given that we are meant to know for certain that his fate is already decided? One answer, perhaps, might lie in a contrast of Banquo and Macbeth’s responses to the Witches’ predictions. Admittedly, Macbeth is specifically targeted by the Witches, who in the first scene make…show more content…
This surely refers to the glory promised to Banquo’s descendants by the witches. Banquo does not act on these impulses, but what are these ‘merciful powers’? While there is no apparent answer to be found in the text, Banquo’s plea to something greater to save him from himself is an indication of the potential lack of free will exhibited in the world of the text. Similarly, Lady Macbeth’s desire to rid herself of her womanly qualities is a contradiction in itself which demonstrates this further: ‘Come, you spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,/And fill me the crown to the toe top-full/Of direst cruelty!’ (1.5.40-43). That Lady Macbeth is shown to have agency over her own inherent, natural traits is a contradiction in itself, and is in one of the paradoxes over which the play is constructed. The fact that Banquo and Lady Macbeth need to call on forces beyond themselves them hints at what further meaning the Witches might

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