What Troubles Macbeth about Banquo’s Character?

Arts and Literature

Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, delves into the depths of human character, exploring the complexities of ambition, power, and guilt. In the play, Macbeth’s paranoia and fear are heightened by the character of Banquo, his loyal friend and fellow soldier. Banquo possesses qualities that unsettle Macbeth, leading to his desperate attempts to eliminate any threat to his newfound power. This article aims to analyze the specific aspects of Banquo’s character that trouble Macbeth, highlighting the reasons behind his actions and the consequences that follow.

1. Banquo’s Integrity and Loyalty

Banquo is portrayed as a man of integrity and unwavering loyalty throughout the play. He fights alongside Macbeth in battle and remains faithful to him even after the witches’ prophecies are revealed. This loyalty contrasts with Macbeth’s own ambition, which drives him to commit heinous acts to secure his position as king. Macbeth’s troubled conscience recognizes that Banquo’s loyalty may become a potential threat to his rule and prompts him to take drastic measures.

1.1 Banquo’s Trustworthiness

One of the reasons Banquo troubles Macbeth is his trustworthiness. Banquo is known to be honorable and honest, making him a reliable confidant. Macbeth, on the other hand, struggles with deceit and treachery. He realizes that Banquo’s virtue may expose his own immoral actions, leading to his downfall. Macbeth’s fear stems from the possibility that Banquo’s integrity will reveal the truth about Duncan’s murder and his own guilt.

1.2 Banquo’s Threat to Macbeth’s Ambition

Banquo’s loyalty poses a threat to Macbeth’s ambition for power. The witches’ prophecy foretells that Banquo’s descendants will become kings, planting a seed of insecurity in Macbeth’s mind. Macbeth’s obsession with maintaining his kingship drives him to eliminate any potential competitors, including Banquo and his son, Fleance. Macbeth believes that by eliminating Banquo and his lineage, he can secure his reign and prevent the prophecy from coming true.

2. Banquo’s Knowledge of the Supernatural

Banquo’s encounter with the witches alongside Macbeth exposes him to the supernatural elements that shape the play’s events. While Macbeth succumbs to his ambition and becomes deeply involved with the witches’ prophecies, Banquo remains cautious and skeptical. This contrast further troubles Macbeth, as he fears that Banquo’s rational mindset might expose the truth behind his actions.

2.1 Banquo’s Skepticism

Unlike Macbeth, Banquo maintains a skeptical outlook on the witches’ prophecies. He questions their motives and warns Macbeth about the dangers of placing trust in their words. Banquo’s skepticism threatens to unravel Macbeth’s fragile hold on his ambition, as it presents an alternative perspective that challenges his actions. Macbeth’s fear of Banquo’s skepticism drives his decision to silence him permanently.

2.2 Banquo’s Potential as a Witness

Another aspect of Banquo’s character that troubles Macbeth is his potential role as a witness. Banquo is present when Macbeth first hears the prophecies and witnesses his reaction. His presence during these significant moments makes him a potential threat, as he can testify to Macbeth’s initial desire for power and subsequent descent into darkness. Macbeth’s paranoia leads him to believe that Banquo’s testimony could expose his guilt and tarnish his reputation.

3. Banquo’s Moral Compass

Throughout the play, Banquo demonstrates a strong moral compass, always questioning the morality of his actions and those of others. His unwavering adherence to moral principles contrasts starkly with Macbeth’s descent into immorality. Macbeth’s troubled conscience recognizes this discrepancy, causing him to fear Banquo’s judgment and moral superiority.

3.1 Banquo’s Guilt-Free Conscience

Unlike Macbeth, Banquo is not burdened by guilt. He remains virtuous and refuses to sacrifice his morality in pursuit of power. Banquo’s guilt-free conscience serves as a constant reminder of Macbeth’s own guilt, intensifying his paranoia and fear. Macbeth’s troubled mind perceives Banquo as a symbol of righteousness, further fueling his desire to eradicate any trace of morality that threatens his reign.

3.2 Banquo’s Moral Influence

Banquo’s moral influence over Macbeth is another aspect that troubles the ambitious king. Macbeth is aware of Banquo’s positive influence on his decisions, often seeking his advice and relying on his judgment. Banquo’s presence serves as a constant reminder of the better path Macbeth could have chosen, had he not succumbed to his ambition. Macbeth fears that Banquo’s moral compass will expose the depths of his own corruption, leading him to take drastic measures to eliminate this influence.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Why does Macbeth fear Banquo?

Macbeth fears Banquo due to his loyalty and integrity, which could potentially expose Macbeth’s immoral actions and guilt. Banquo’s knowledge of the supernatural and his skepticism also trouble Macbeth, as they challenge his own beliefs and ambitions.

2. What threat does Banquo pose to Macbeth’s ambition?

Banquo’s presence poses a threat to Macbeth’s ambition as the witches’ prophecy suggests that Banquo’s descendants will become kings. Macbeth fears that this prophecy might come true, jeopardizing his reign and driving him to eliminate Banquo and his lineage.

3. Why does Banquo trouble Macbeth’s conscience?

Banquo’s moral compass and guilt-free conscience trouble Macbeth as they highlight the stark contrast between their characters. Banquo serves as a constant reminder of Macbeth’s descent into immorality and intensifies his guilt and paranoia.

4. How does Banquo’s skepticism affect Macbeth?

Banquo’s skepticism challenges Macbeth’s belief in the witches’ prophecies and his own actions. It threatens to unravel Macbeth’s fragile hold on his ambition, prompting him to take drastic measures to silence Banquo.

5. What role does Banquo play as a witness?

Banquo’s presence during significant moments, such as Macbeth’s initial encounter with the witches, makes him a potential witness to Macbeth’s desires for power and subsequent descent into darkness. Macbeth fears that Banquo’s testimony could expose his guilt and tarnish his reputation.

6. Why does Banquo’s moral influence trouble Macbeth?

Banquo’s moral influence serves as a constant reminder of the better path Macbeth could have chosen. It highlights the depths of Macbeth’s corruption and intensifies his fear of being exposed. Macbeth’s troubled mind drives him to eliminate any trace of Banquo’s moral influence.


In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Banquo’s character troubles Macbeth on various levels. Banquo’s loyalty, integrity, knowledge of the supernatural, skepticism, and moral compass all contribute to Macbeth’s growing paranoia and fear. The contrasting qualities between the two characters highlight Macbeth’s descent into darkness and intensify his guilt. Ultimately, Macbeth’s desperate attempts to eliminate Banquo and his lineage only serve to further seal his tragic fate.

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