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Why is Banquo such an important character in Shakespeares play Macbeth?

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Why is Banquo such an important character in Shakespeare?s play ?Macbeth?? Banquo serves as a dramatic foil to highlight the character of the title role of Macbeth. There are superficial similarities between the two characters, but, beneath the surface, there is significant contrast between them. The use of contrast as a dramatic device is an effective way to focus the audience?s attention on the aspects of Macbeth?s character Shakespeare wants to emphasise. In the beginning of the play, Banquo is presented as a parallel figure to Macbeth. Both have fought courageously for their King and are good friends. Both have promises made to them by the Witches. But there the similarity ends. Banquo is loyal, wise, truthful and honourable. Macbeth is dishonest, power-hungry and weak. It is significant that Macbeth receives the title of the former traitor, Thane of Cawdor. Both are multi-faceted characters, however. Shakespeare was able to create three dimensional roles and Macbeth still has redeeming features: he has pangs of conscience, for example, and it is he who tells us about Banquo?s goodness (his ?royalty of nature?), showing that he can still distinguish good from evil. ...read more.


He is honest and loyal, wanting to keep his conscience clear. He begins to suspect Macbeth because he clearly states that, whatever Macbeth promises, he will not be tempted into wrong-doing. Macbeth says ?If you shall cleave to my consent, when ?tis, /It shall make honour for you.? But Banquo answers ?So I lose none/ in seeking to augment it, but still keep/ my bosom franchised and allegiance clear.? Polanski successfully highlights the contrast between the two men in his film version of Macbeth. The atmosphere is gloomy and sombre, setting the scene of foreboding. The starless sky (?There?s husbandry in heaven: /Their candles are all out.?), the sounds of dripping water from the rain and an owl hooting add to this use of pathetic fallacy which foreshadows the murder to come. The flickering candlelight falls on the faces of the characters in an eerie way, adding to the tension. Whereas Banquo is in the open and acting kindly with his son, Macbeth is furtive and hiding, spying on Banquo before he shows himself. Banquo carries his bedding as if it is the ?lead? of the ?heavy summons? which he speaks about. ...read more.


He only speaks on the film when he?s directly looking at and holding the real dagger, which makes his coming down to earth more marked. The imagined dagger looks silver and temptingly shiny and pure. Again, Macbeth is furtive and secretive, in semi-darkness in this part of the scene. Polanski emphasises his dark and corrupted nature in this way. In Act 3 scene 1 we hear Banquo?s thoughts about Macbeth before we hear or see Macbeth himself. Banquo does not praise Macbeth?s character; on the contrary, he says ?I fear /Thou play?dst most foully for?t?, showing his suspicion of Macbeth. He is the only person who links Duncan?s murder with Macbeth. In contrast, when Macbeth speaks of Banquo he talks of his ?royalty of nature?, his ?wisdom? and his ?valour?. These parallel private thoughts make the characters of both men even more emphasised. Banquo is wise and has insight to the truth. Macbeth recognises the good in Banquo and his own weakness and faults are highlighted in comparison. To sum up, Banquo represents honour and wisdom in the play. He serves as Macbeth?s conscience. This becomes apparent when he reappears as a ghost ? a manifestation of Macbeth?s guilt. He is essential as the character who places Macbeth?s ?black and deep desires? into sharp relief through his goodness and integrity. ...read more.

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