Banquo As The True Hero Of Shakespeare's Macbeth

2490 words - 10 pages

Banquo as the True Hero of Macbeth

 
   In William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth the main two characters are worthless knaves because they have forsaken their moral values. The next character with stature is Banquo, whose prowess in battle ranks him alongside Macbeth. He lives a moral life and is heroic for this in a sense.

 

A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy explains the main interest in the character of Banquo:

 

The main interest of the character of Banquo arises from the changes that take place in him, and from the influence of the witches upon him. And it is curious that Shakespeare's intention here is so frequently missed. Banquo being at first strongly contrasted with Macbeth, as an innocent man with a guilty, it seems to be supposed that this contrast must be continued to his death; while, in reality, though it is never removed, it is gradually diminished. Banquo in fact may be described much more truly than Macbeth as the victim of the Witches. (348)

 

In Shakespeare and Tragedy John Bayley discusses Banquo shortly before his murder:

 

[. . .] like Banquo, who, in the tense hour before the murder, expresses in more forceful form the idea of evil speculation and possibility as ranging in the mind:

 

Merciful powers,

Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature

Gives way to in repose. II.i.7-9

 

At such a moment the activities of the mind become almost palpable and express themselves in bodily form, as they do in the other two mind tragedies. In the speech which he imagines the thoughts that may come to him when he goes to rest, Banquo hands his sword to his son Fleance, and then - with a dream-like precision - hands over his belt with its dagger too:

 

Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heaven;

Their candles are all out. Take thee that too. (188-89)

 

Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare comment that Banquo is a force of good in the play, set in opposition to Macbeth:

 

Banquo, the loyal soldier, praying for restraint against evil thoughts which enter his mind as they had entered Macbeth's, but which work no evil there, is set over against Macbeth, as virtue is set over against disloyalty.  (792)

 

In Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, Northrop Frye explains the rationale behind Banquo's ghost in this play:

 

Except for the episode of Hercules leaving Antony, where mysterious music is heard again, there is nothing really supernatural in Shakespeare's tragedies that is not connected with the murder of the order-figures. In Macbeth we have Banquo's ghost instead of Duncan's, partly because of the emphasis on the repose that Duncan has gained by getting murdered, and partly because the line of the reigning monarch descends from Banquo. (24)

 

The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning and three Witches who are anticipating...

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