The porter is a comic figure and his appearance is timed to lighten the atmosphere after such dark deeds, although his topic of drunkenness only stresses further man’s depravity in weakened states. Implicating them in Duncan’s death, Macbeth kills the porters in feigned fury at the King’s death. Fearing a similar fate to their father, Malcolm flees to England and Donalbain to Ireland.

Ross and Macduff, two Thanes of Scotland, discuss the King’s death. Ross immediately guesses the reason for the murder:

"Thriftless ambition that will raven up

Thine own life’s means!"


Banquo, in soliloquy, accuses Macbeth of murdering Duncan:

"…and I fear

Thou playedst most foully for’t."

However, we see that Banquo still trusts his friend, or harbors some ambitions of his own, because he accepts an invitation to feast with the newly crowned Thane of Cawdor, referring to Macbeth as "your highness".

Macbeth is worried that Banquo knows of his evil deed: "Our fears in Banquo / Stick deep". Macbeth enlists the help of two villainous murderers, who undertake to kill Banquo and his son Fleance whilst they are out riding. With great loquaciousness Macbeth persuades the murderers, and himself, of why Banquo must die. Lady Macbeth is versed in many of the tricks of manipulation that Macbeth has not considered. Before the feast, she says to him:

"Come on,

Gentle my lord, sleek o’er your rugged looks,

Be bright and jovial among your guests tonight."

The murderers kill Banquo, but Fleance escapes.

During the feast, Macbeth praises Banquo, trying to remain nonchalant. The arrival of Banquo’s ghost spoils the charade. It sits in Macbeth’s place and Macbeth becomes hysterical when none of the other guests can see it. Lady Macbeth, acting deceptively and opportunistically as ever, sends the guests away before they become even more suspicious of her husband’s behavior, explaining away his actions as the result of a childhood affliction:

"My lord is often thus;

And hath been from his youth."

We are introduced to Hecate, the leader of the witches, who briefs the three ‘wierd sisters’ in the correct manner in which to bring about Macbeth’s downfall. Meanwhile, Malcolm (Duncan’s son) has joined with Macduff against Macbeth. They have allied with the powerful English county of Northumberland.

Act IV

The witches cast spells, tolling the refrain:

"Double, double, toil and trouble;

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