What do the witches predict for Banquo in Macbeth?

Arts and Literature

In William Shakespeare’s renowned play “Macbeth,” the three witches play a significant role in driving the plot forward and influencing the actions of the characters. One of the prophecies they deliver is about Banquo, a nobleman and loyal friend of Macbeth. The predictions made by the witches regarding Banquo have far-reaching consequences and set in motion a chain of events that shape the tragic outcome of the play.

The First Witch’s Prophecy

The first witch tells Banquo, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!” This statement isn’t particularly surprising to Banquo, as he is already aware that Macbeth has recently been granted the title of Thane of Glamis due to his brave deeds in battle.

The Second Witch’s Prophecy

The second witch continues, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!” This prediction perplexes Banquo as he is unaware of Macbeth’s new title. He questions the witches about it but doesn’t receive any immediate answer.

The Third Witch’s Prophecy

The third witch declares, “All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter!” This prophecy catches both Macbeth and Banquo by surprise. While Macbeth appears intrigued by the possibility of becoming king, Banquo is clearly startled by the witches’ prediction.

Banquo’s Reaction

Initially, Banquo doesn’t show any overt desire or ambition to pursue the throne himself. Instead, he is skeptical of the witches’ prophecies and warns Macbeth to be wary of their deceptive nature. Banquo cautions his friend, saying, “Oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths.” He implies that the witches may be luring Macbeth into a trap.

Macbeth’s Fear and Ambition

The witches’ prophecy about Banquo’s descendants adds fuel to Macbeth’s growing paranoia and ambition. They predict that Banquo’s sons will be kings, which threatens Macbeth’s own reign. Fearing the prophecy might come true, Macbeth becomes consumed by a desire to secure his position as king and eliminate any potential threats to his power.

The Betrayal and Murder of Banquo

Macbeth, driven by his fear and ambition, plots to have Banquo and his son Fleance murdered. He hires two murderers to carry out the deed, hoping to prevent the witches’ prophecy from being fulfilled. Banquo is indeed killed, but Fleance manages to escape, preserving the possibility of Banquo’s descendants eventually ascending to the throne.

The Return of Banquo’s Ghost

During a banquet, Macbeth is tormented by guilt and paranoia. He sees Banquo’s ghost sitting at the banquet table, which only he can see. This supernatural manifestation of Banquo’s spirit serves as a reminder of Macbeth’s heinous actions and further fuels his descent into madness.

The Significance of Banquo’s Prophecy

The prophecies regarding Banquo hold immense significance in the play. They represent the theme of fate versus free will, as Macbeth’s actions are driven by his fear of the witches’ predictions coming true. Banquo, on the other hand, represents morality and loyalty, as he resists the temptations of power and remains true to his principles.


1. Why do the witches make prophecies about Banquo?

The witches make prophecies about Banquo to provoke Macbeth’s ambition and to create conflict and tension in the play. Banquo’s descendants becoming kings also serves as a reminder of Macbeth’s guilt and the consequences of his actions.

2. Does Banquo believe the witches’ prophecies?

Initially, Banquo is skeptical of the witches’ prophecies and warns Macbeth about their deceptive nature. However, as events unfold and Macbeth’s actions align with the prophecies, Banquo begins to suspect that they might be true.

3. How does Banquo’s prophecy impact Macbeth?

Banquo’s prophecy serves as a catalyst for Macbeth’s descent into madness and tyranny. Macbeth becomes obsessed with securing his position as king and eliminating any potential threats to his power, including Banquo and his descendants.

4. Why does Macbeth fear Banquo?

Macbeth fears Banquo because the witches predict that Banquo’s sons will become kings, posing a threat to Macbeth’s own reign. Macbeth’s paranoia and ambition drive him to eliminate Banquo in order to prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled.

5. Does Banquo’s ghost appear to anyone else?

No, Banquo’s ghost only appears to Macbeth during the banquet scene. The other characters in the play are unaware of its presence and cannot see it.

6. What is the significance of Banquo’s ghost?

Banquo’s ghost symbolizes Macbeth’s guilt and the consequences of his actions. Its appearance during the banquet scene serves as a haunting reminder of the murder Macbeth orchestrated and further accelerates his descent into madness.

7. Does Banquo’s prophecy come true?

While Banquo is killed as part of Macbeth’s plan to prevent the prophecy from coming true, his son Fleance escapes. This leaves open the possibility of Banquo’s descendants eventually fulfilling the prophecy and becoming kings.


The witches’ prophecies regarding Banquo in “Macbeth” play a crucial role in shaping the events and characters’ actions. Banquo’s loyalty, skepticism, and eventual murder contribute to the themes of ambition, fate, and morality explored throughout the play. The prophecies serve as a reminder that the pursuit of power and the disregard for morality ultimately lead to tragic consequences.

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