Banquo says Macbeth has attained all the Witches said he would and at great cost to everyone; he feels his own prophecy should come true as well. The friendship between Banquo and Macbeth has been dissolved. Banquo no longer trusts his friend and must be cautious in his presence. Macbeth knows that all the Witches have said has come true and fears Banquo’s prophecy will also come true.
Macbeth feels his own sons should succeed him, not Banquo’s. Macbeth states his fears and concerns, yet, he does not inform Lady Macbeth of what he has planned. Macbeth feels he must resolve this conflict and he hires murderers to kill Banquo and his son. He feels this will guarantee that his heirs will succeed him. Macbeth does not express remorse or concern over the planning of Banquo and Fleance’s murder, as he did with Duncan’s murder. By now, he is so blinded with ambition and power and will stop at nothing to secure his powerful position.
Lady Macbeth and Macbeth discuss the problems they are having even though they have achieved what they wanted. Macbeth feels he has the Banquo situation in hand and assures Lady Macbeth not to worry about it. They both agree that they must continue to hide their true feelings at the banquet. Macbeth says that evil deeds are made stronger through additional evil deeds.
The murderers leave open the possibility of the prophecy being fulfilled because they are unsuccessful with the ambush on Banquo and his son. Banquo is killed, but his son Fleance escapes. Macbeth must still face the fact that Fleance is alive, yet he is delighted that the source has been killed. He does not have to worry about additional sons, only Fleance himself.
This scene also introduces a third murderer. He says he was sent by Macbeth, yet there is no other mention of him in the play. There is much speculation as to the identity of the third murderer. When Macbeth is performed on stage, the third murderer is sometimes hooded so that his features cannot be seen.
At the feast, Macbeth’s fears and guilt overpower him and he loses control over his inner thoughts. He sees Banquo’s ghost. The vision is horrible and he speaks openly to the ghost. Lady Macbeth is unable to control Macbeth, yet she urges him to reign in his fears and remember his guests. Her attempts are futile and she fears he will confess to the murder of Duncan to all the guests. This is the first time Macbeth gives way to a public expression of his inner conflicts; which marks a turning point in the drama. Macbeth continues to manifest his guilt through the vision of the ghost he can only see, and Lady Macbeth asks the guests to leave quickly as Macbeth seems to be getting worse. She has completely lost control of Macbeth.
Almost as quickly as the guests leave, Macbeth’s fears surface concerning Macduff’s not attending the banquet. Macbeth is fearful that, “Blood, they say: blood will have blood.” He is paranoid about everyone and what their behavior means. He must control the situation even if that means killing someone to secure his position and remain in power. Macbeth feels his only recourse is to consult with the Witches as to his fate as they seem to see into the future.
Hecate, the Mistress of the Witches, is agitated that she was not informed as to the events concerning Macbeth. She plans to contribute to his fate by creating a situation that will enable Macbeth to create his own demise. This creates drama and reinforces the power the Witches have in the play.