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William Shakespeare


Act 3, Scene 1:
Some questions to test you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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Time has passed. Macbeth is now established as king of Scotland.

Banquo continues to remember the witches' promises to him but remains honourable and hopeful.

Macbeth, on the other hand, hates the thought of Banquo becoming father to a line of kings and therefore plans to murder his former friend.


Equivocation is a major theme in Macbeth.

Equivocation means the use of ambiguous words to hide the real meaning. It also means to prevaricate, i.e. to speak or act evasively or misleadingly.

The porter spoke of equivocation at great length when he had to open the castle gate to Macduff who had arrived early to awaken the king.

He pretended to be the Porter of Hell, putting souls of the dead on trial and sentencing them to eternal damnation for their equivocation.

Of course, it was Macbeth who was the ultimate victim of equivocation.

The witches gave him an equivocal prophecy. He was to be the Thane of Glamis -- which he was already.

He was also to become Thane of Cawdor -- which title had just been given him although he did not yet know it.

Ultimately, he would become King of Scotland -- which, however, was already a distinct possibility for a man of his prowess.

The witches made it seem as if Macbeth would have to murder to become king, and this was certainly the way Lady Macbeth saw it.

The truth, however, was that he might have become king anyway if he had just waited patiently. After all, he was an heroic man and, in those days, great heroes became kings.

Macbeth was therefore the victim of equivocation. He was told half-truths: evasive and misleading statements, words that were ambiguous and whose real meaning was unclear.

The tragedy, of course, was that Macbeth acted upon this equivocation and therefore condemned himself to a possible life in Hell. There he would meet the real Porter of Hell's Gate!

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"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."
  • Explain what Banquo's fears and his hopes were. (4)

[Need help?]

"We hear our bloody cousins are bestowed
in England and in Ireland, not confessing
their cruel parricide, filling their hearers
with strange invention
  • What is parricide? What is Macbeth's purpose in saying these words to Banquo? (4)

[Need help?]

Macbeth lists two reasons why Banquo must be killed. What are these? (4)

[Need help?]

Why does Macbeth request that the murderers also kill Fleance? (3)

[Need help?]

How do you know that the meeting with the murderers is not the first time that Macbeth has met with them? (1)

[Need help?]

Sum up the reasons Macbeth gives the murderers why they should hate Banquo. (2)

[Need help?]


Comment on both the fears and the hopes which occupy Banquo's mind during his opening speech. (5)

[Need help?]

Macbeth asks Banquo, "Is it far you ride?"
  • Is there perhaps a touch of dramatic irony in this question? (4)

[Need help?]

"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 feared
  • By referring to the entire passage, explain why Macbeth has developed such a fanatical hatred for Banquo that he must murder his former companion and friend? (10)

[Need help?]

Macbeth goes to much trouble to explain to the murderers that there are major reasons why they should hate Banquo.
  • Why does he not just offer them a good fee to murder him? (4)

[Need help?]

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