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Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, is a tale of deceit and treachery. Macbeth is a Scottish lord in great favor with the king. After hearing the prophecies of three witches and seeing one come true, he and his wife decide that they will not rely on fate but instead take matters into their own hands. Their plan entails murdering the king. Having done that the couple must continue to lie and murder lest they be found out. Macbeth’s best friend is Banquo. The witches prophesied to Banquo as well. They tell that, like Macbeth, Banquo will be a very ambitious and prosperous man. However how seriously he takes these prophecies and how he acts upon them differ completely from the reactions of Macbeth. Both men are also very loyal to the king and to each other, but just how deep that loyalty runs differs on each account. Ambition and loyalty are two general similarities in which the greatest differences in character between Macbeth and Banquo are demonstrated.


When Macbeth and Banquo happen upon the three hags, they are greeted with “All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” Then Banquo says “My noble partner you greet with present grace and great prediction of noble having and of royal hope...To me you speak not. If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me….” The witches hail him and predict, “lesser than Macbeth, and greater. Not so [fortunate], yet much [more fortunate]. Thou shalt get kings though thou be none.” The men begin to think that they have gone insane when Ross and Angus enter and announce to Macbeth that he is the new Thane of Cawdor. The men’s reactions to these prophecies and the immediate coming to pass of the second of Macbeth’s, the first of which was already true, is where the differences in the two characters becomes prevalent. Banquo tells Macbeth, “…oftentimes, to win us to our harms, the instruments of darkness tell us truths….” He thinks logically about the situation and doesn’t seem to believe the witches to be very credible. Macbeth, on the other hand, begins to debate with himself over what becoming king would mean, the death of Duncan, the king and his uncle, and his successors. He unwillingly begins to imagine himself murdering Duncan. The more Macbeth contemplates and dwells on the matter, the more convinced he becomes that he must make his own destiny and not wait around for fate to intervene. Alas he writes to Lady Macbeth telling her of his news and also that the king is coming to stay with them. When he gets home he and his wife begin to formulate a plan for killing the king. So while Banquo has done nothing about his prophecies, if he even puts any stock in them at all, Macbeth has, because of his, murdered his uncle, the king.


Both Macbeth and Banquo are generals in the king’s army and best friends. They are loyal to their king and they fight for him, and they are loyal to each other. After the prophecies are made, Macbeth kills the king. It is obvious that Banquo is more loyal to the king than Macbeth. Having murdered the king, Macbeth has to tell lies to everyone so that he is not discovered. Banquo begins to suspect Macbeth of foul play. He says to himself, “Thou hast it now. King, Cawdor, Glamis, all…and I fear thou played most foully for ’t…but hush, no more.” He implies in this monologue that he will not unveil and expose Macbeth as a murderer for two possible reasons. One may be that it was foretold the he would father kings and so Macbeth has done him a favor by disposing of Duncan, but certainly the second is that Macbeth is his friend and he could not rat him out. Little does Banquo know that Macbeth is plotting to have he and Fleance, his son, assassinated because Macbeth knows that Banquo suspects him and because of the last of Banquo’s prophesies. So Banquo’s loyalty to Macbeth is definitely stronger than Macbeth’s to him.


The reactions of the men to the weird sister’s prophecies and the depth of the loyalty that Macbeth and Banquo have for each other show, through two similarities, the difference in character of two best friends. Six prophecies brought out the deceit and treachery in one man and turned him against his family and friends, while the other remained logical, sane, and loyal. And in the end, Macbeth looses everything, his wife, his respect, his titles, and ultimately his life.


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