Plot Summary / The Story-line
In Act II Scene I of “Macbeth”, Banquo and his son, Fleance, are walking in the courtyard of Macbeth’s castle late at night as they prepare to retire for the night. Banquo reveals that he has been troubled by dreams of the witches’ prophecies. Suddenly Macbeth enters the scene. Banquo informs him that the King has been pleased with their hospitality and is now in sleep. Banquo also conveys the King’s greetings to Macbeth and presents him with a diamond which the King has gifted to Lady Macbeth.
Banquo tells Macbeth of his dreams and that part of the witches’ prophecies has come true for Macbeth. Macbeth replies that he has not given it a thought and they would rather talk about it later when they get leisure. Macbeth also says that he hopes Banquo will remain loyal to him to get benefitted.
After Banquo and Fleance leave, Macbeth has a hallucination of a bloody dagger floating in the air. He tries to grab it but fails, causing him to question his sanity. Despite his uncertainty, he decides to go ahead with the murder of King Duncan as per the plan.
A bell rings as a signal from Lady Macbeth indicating that the king’s chamberlains are asleep. Macbeth starts for King Duncan’s bed chamber.
Commentary on Act II, Scene i
Act II Scene I of “Macbeth” is significant in its portrayal of Macbeth’s mental state, as he becomes increasingly consumed by guilt and paranoia. His vision of the bloody dagger is a powerful symbol of his inner turmoil and foreshadows the bloody events to come.
Though Macbeth is split by the conflict between his conscience, a feeling of guilt on the one hand and his ambition on the other, he is finally consumed by his thirst for power.
The scene also highlights the theme of the supernatural, as Banquo’s dreams of the witches and Macbeth’s hallucination blur the lines between reality and the supernatural world.
In this scene, the introduction of Fleance (Banquo’s son) reminds the audience of the fact that Banquo’s successor will be the future king. So, it gives a hint that Macbeth may have to commit more crime in future to secure his position as the king.
Furthermore, this scene once again brings out the contrast between the two characters of Macbeth and Banquo. While Banquo resorts to God’s help in the face of the troubling dreams of the “weird sisters”, Macbeth chooses the path of treachery, murder and secrecy to get his wish fulfilled. Banquo’s suspicion and concern also hint at the coming conflicts between Macbeth and his former friend which we will see later in the play.
Overall, Act II, Scene I of Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” is a powerful and haunting scene that foreshadows the tragedy to come. It explores key themes of power, ambition and guilt, and sets the stage for the conflict that will drive the plot forward.