Macbeth and Banquo are two of Shakespeare’s most famous tragic heroes. Both men are brave soldiers who have fought for their country. Macbeth is ambitious and power-hungry, while Banquo is content with his current station in life. Macbeth is also prone to fits of paranoia and jealousy, while Banquo remains level-headed and rational. These differences between the two men make Banquo a perfect foil for Macbeth.
Banquo’s calm nature serves to highlight Macbeth’s increasingly erratic behavior as the play progresses. Macbeth becomes more and more paranoid, seeing conspiracies everywhere he looks. Banquo, on the other hand, remains calm and collected even in the face of Macbeth’s madness. This contrast between the two men’s behavior helps to highlight just how far Macbeth has fallen from his original state.
Banquo is also a foil for Macbeth in terms of their ambitions. Macbeth is consumed by his ambition for power, while Banquo is content with his current station in life. Macbeth’s ambition leads him to commit murder and other atrocities, while Banquo remains a noble and honorable man. This contrast serves to highlight the tragic nature of Macbeth’s fall from grace.
In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, some characters are designed to expose other character’s weaknesses or strengths more efficiently. Referred to as a character foil, multiple figures throughout this story contrast from Macbeth and through their actions we learn more about his traits and characteristics.
Out of all the foils Macbeth has, Banquo is by far the most significant. Although Macbeth and Banquo start off on equal footing, it is through their different reactions to temptation and power that Shakespeare further cements Banquo’s role as a foil to Macbeth.
When Macbeth first meets the witches, he is immediately taken in by their prophecies and starts to believe that he will one day be king. On the other hand, Banquo is much more skeptical of the witches and their predictions.
He states: “The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, / And these are of them. Whither are they vanish’d? / Into thin air: and what seem’d corporal melteth / As breath into the wind. Would they had stay’d!” (1.3.50-54). Banquo is not as easily fooled by the witches as Macbeth is, and immediately realizes that there is something off about them. He does not believe in their predictions and instead sees them for what they really are – frauds.
Another key difference between Macbeth and Banquo is their reaction to power once they obtain it. After Macbeth becomes king, he starts to become paranoid and allows his ambition to get the best of him. In order to keep his throne, Macbeth kills anyone who he thinks might be a threat to his power – even if that means killing his friends and family.
On the other hand, Banquo is much more level-headed after he is named Thane of Cawdor. He does not let power go to his head and instead remains humble. Banquo even refuses to take part in Macbeth’s plan to kill Duncan, stating: “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me / Without my stir” (3.1.144-145).
Banquo’s foil role is further cemented in Act 3, Scene 1 when Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost. After Macbeth kills Banquo, he starts to become haunted by his ghost. Macbeth is so guilt-ridden by his actions that he starts to see Banquo’s ghost everywhere he goes. This shows that Macbeth is not able to handle the weight of his crimes, and is slowly becoming unstable. On the other hand, Banquo’s ghost does not haunt Macbeth – instead it visits Macbeth in order to warn him of the impending danger he faces.
The contrast between Macbeth and Banquo is evident from the very beginning of the play. While Macbeth is easily fooled by the witches and their predictions, Banquo is much more skeptical of them. Additionally, Macbeth allows power to go to his head and becomes paranoid after he becomes king. On the other hand, Banquo remains level-headed and humble after he is named Thane of Cawdor.
Lastly, Macbeth is haunted by Banquo’s ghost because he cannot handle the guilt of his crimes. Banquo, on the other hand, visits Macbeth in order to warn him of the impending danger he faces. Through their contrasting actions, Banquo serves as an effective foil to Macbeth.
Throughout the play, Macbeth’s main concern is gaining power and becoming influential. A character who serves as Macbeth’s foil is Banquo, because of the contrasting way he approaches a situation that foretells who will become rule in the near future. By Banquo being included in the tragedy, Macbeth, one is able to analyze his reaction to the news, and learn how Macbeth’s ambition has consumed him.
Macbeth is informed by the witches that he will be crowned, however Banquo will beget kings, but never wear a crown himself. Macbeth is immediately excited about being crowned and strives to make sure this comes true, while Banquo only questions how this will come to be. Macbeth’s hunger for power is what leads to his undoing, as he makes rash decisions without thinking of the consequences.
Banquo on the other hand, is content with his station in life and does not feel the need to pursue more power than he already has. In essence, Banquo serves as a foil to Macbeth because he highlights Macbeth’s ambition and how it ultimately destroys him.
Macbeth’s actions clearly demonstrate his lacking morals in comparison to Banquo. Although Banquo is predicted to be the father of kings while Macbeth will only king himself, one would presume that Banquo be more upset since he’s the only not serving as a king. However,Banqou is content knowing that his three sons will continue his legacy–showing that he hasa humble and fair spirit.
Banquo’s trustworthiness is also Macbeth’s downfall; Macbeth was so paranoid about Banquo’s knowledge of the witches’ prophecies that he had Banquo killed, which led to Macbeth’s further isolation and guilt. Banquo is truly a foil to Macbeth in many ways.
He possesses characteristics that Macbeth lacks and vice versa. In the end, Banquo’s death leads to Macbeth’s undoing. It is interesting to note that, even though Macbeth is the one who kills Banquo, it is Banquo’s ghost that haunts Macbeth for the rest of his days. This just goes to show how much of an impact Banquo had on Macbeth, even in death.