I think That Banquos part in the play is to contrast Macbeths character and decisions. Banquos loyal, honourable and heroic character matches that of Macbeths at the beginning of the play but as Macbeth changes into the evil, over ambitious “Butcher” later on in the play, Banquo remains an honourable and loyal soldier. This highlights the change in Macbeths character stage by stage because Banquo can be used as a comparison and can be looked back upon to compare Macbeths original character to his present one showing how much he has changed.
Banquo has a lack of ambition through out the play, He appears to be content with his status and willingly accepts his level in the “natural order” . When Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches, Banquo seems suspicious of the witches. Unlike Macbeth he has no hidden ambitions. Banquo has no intension of perusing the prediction that his sons will be kings and is happy to discard the witches comments. He says “oftentimes to win us to our harm the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence” This shows Banquos understanding of the witches, he will happily discard what the witches have said because he knows that the truths they tell can be a means of trickery. Banquo does think that the prophecies might come true but doesn’t feel he needs to encourage them and is happy to leave it to fate. This is an opposite reaction to Macbeths. Macbeth immediately has thoughts of treason and doesn’t even begin to imagine that maybe the prophecies can come true by fate.
Banquo also has integrity and a conscience. Unlike Macbeth he can distinguish between right and wrong/good and evil. He can see that the witches are evil and understands the danger involved with believing what they say. He warns Macbeth of this when he notices that he is “rapt” by them. When it is announced that Macbeth will become thane of Cawdor Banquo says :What, can the devil speak true?” This shows that Banquo sees the witches premonitions as the words of the devil. The thoughts of murder and treason don’t enter Banquos train of thought as they do Macbeths, Banquo is troubled by the witches ” I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters” He appears to be worried about the prophecies and his conscience makes him feel almost guilty for thinking of them again, but shows integrity when he tells Macbeth about his troubled sleep. He also shows this after hearing of Duncan’s death, He is genuinely shocked and upset by the news “too cruel, anywhere. Dear duff, I prithee, contradict thyself, and say it is not so”. From this point he does believe the witches but still vows not to peruse or encourage them “may they not be my oracles as well, And set me up in hope?” This shows that Banquo has a conscience and wouldn’t begin to consider encouraging something that is obviously evil unlike Macbeth, who’s ambition takes over blocking his wider view. This contrast of character is used to emphasize Macbeths evilness.
Another of Banquos characteristics is his loyalty and heroism. Banquo is loyal to king Duncan which is another reason he doesn’t peruse what the witches say to him. He says to Duncan “there if I grow, the harvest is your own” This shows that, unlike Macbeth, Banquo is genuinely loyal and has no hidden agendas whereas Macbeth only appears to be loyal when really he is plotting against the king. Banquo is also loyal to Macbeth. Even though he suspects foul play on his behalf he says that he will stand by Macbeth whatever happens. This is used to make Macbeth look more evil because his lack of loyalty is highlighted by Banquos strong loyalty to the king and Macbeth. It clearly shows the difference in there character and shows genuine loyalty on Banquos behalf.
Banquos conscience, integrity and loyalty all reflect his good character and preservation of the “natural order” People in Shakespeare’s time believed that every person and thing had a natural place, decided by God. Macbeths main crime is in upsetting this natural order. He murders people so that they die before there time eventually throwing the political stability of Scotland into chaos. However Banquo willingly accepts the natural order and is happy with his position in it. He has no intension of trying to change it to benefit himself and stays loyal thus upholding the natural order.
Throughout the play Banquo appears to be very nave and Gullible. It takes some time for him to realise that Macbeth has been dwelling on the prophecies and is considering murder to make them come true. He is fooled by the atmosphere in Macbeths castle, as is Duncan, he says “By this love manisonry, that heavens breath smells wooingly here:” and “I have observed the air is delicate” Banquo is also fooled by Macbeths ‘false face’. Macbeth tells Banquo that he hasn’t even thought about the prophecies “I think not of them” when in actual fact he has thought of nothing but! Banquo is fooled again after the discovery of Duncan’s Murder, this time by lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth pretends to faint with the shock of it all and acts as though she is overwhelmed with grief and shock to draw attention away from Macbeth who is on the verge of giving the away. Banquo believes that lady Macbeth is genuinely shocked like everyone else and commands that someone go to her . Banquo is portrayed in this way to show how devious and cunning Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are because they are able to fool the whole castle
Banquo is shown as a threat to Macbeth in the play. Firstly because he heard the prophecies so would be the first to suspect Macbeths foul play and if he mentioned the apparitions to anyone else the would immediately suspect that Macbeth had murdered Duncan. This adds to the dramatic nature of the play, knowing that Banquo could uncover Macbeths deeds at any time. The second reason that Macbeth see Banquo as a threat is because the witches said that Banquo would be the father of kings. This meant that Macbeths descendants obviously wouldn’t, making all that Macbeth had done to get to be king would be pointless. I think that this twist is added to Banquos character to make the play more complicated and interesting by making Macbeths life as difficult as possible adding to the dramatic nature.
Throughout the play Banquos Character is used as a moral touchstone. To show up Macbeths evil characteristics. There characters are very similar to begin with, both noble, loyal soldiers. But after the first meeting with the three witches Macbeth begins to take a different path. Banquo stays innocent and loyal whereas Macbeth plots against the king, carrying out countless murders and treason. Banquo discards the witches words but Macbeth becomes overrun with ambition and destruction. Banquos and Macbeths thoughts and actions differ in every way showing the audience what they should be like and what they can become if they are not careful,
Banquo plays an important part in Macbeth. His Character is used to highlight the corruptness and immorality of Macbeths character as he changes from good to evil . Banquo is a Brave, loyal and honourable nobleman who willingly accepts his position in the natural order. His ‘Squeaky clean’ image and integrity emphasize Macbeths inner evil and his over ambitious disposition making Macbeth look even worse when his thoughts and actions are put side by side with Banquos. Banquo always peruses the right road, his lack of ambition and naivety contrast Macbeths personality in every way.
This means that the decisions they make will also differ explaining the different routs they take after hearing the witches apparitions. Banquos character enables the audience to begin to uncover Macbeths true character early on in the play, and goes on to highlight his evilness. This makes the play more Dramatic and tragic that Macbeth was once the person that Banquo was. His actions and change of character show the audience what over ambition can do to a person and the consequences of trying to overrule the natural order. Banquo is an example of the kind of person everyone should aim to be but warns people to open their eyes to the world and see people for what they really are. He is a moral touchstone.