Summary

The two murderers arrive at their hiding place, and suddenly a third murderer joins them, claiming to have been sent by Macbeth. They wait for Banquo to show up, knowing that he will pass by here. Banquo and Fleance arrive and are attacked by the murderers, who manage to kill Banquo, but Fleance escapes (the witches predicted that Banquo would be father to a line of kings, but not be king himself, so as long as Fleance lives, what they said can be true). The murderers run away, and plan to report to Macbeth what they’ve accomplished.

Enter

To come on stage.

Three Murderers

It’s clear from what has gone before that Macbeth was plotting with only two murderers; it has never been made clear where the Third Murderer comes from. Was it just a mistake? The First Murderer is unaware that the two murderers were to be joined by a third — it wasn’t discussed when they were plotting with Macbeth, earlier. Is the Third Murderer Macbeth himself, in disguise?

But who did bid thee join with us?

Who sent you here to join us?

He needs not our mistrust, since he delivers / Our offices and what we have to do / To the direction just.

He (Macbeth) doesn’t need to worry (mistrust) that we won’t do our jobs. He sent us here (he delivers / Our offices), and we know what we need to do.

Then stand with us . . .

Then join us. There’s still some daylight left (remember that the play would have been performed in the afternoon, in broad daylight, so it’s helpful to establish that in the scene, it’s almost night time). It’s almost sunset (the west still glimmers with some streaks of day). Now is when the late traveler hurries (spurs his horse) to reach the inn as quickly (apace) as he can — traveling at night was dangerous, as everyone knew; there were robbers and murderers, like these, on the road. Banquo (the subject of our watch, the reason we’re here) is coming.

Hark!

Listen!

Banquo, Within.

We hear Banquo from offstage. He has not yet come onto the stage, so we cannot see him yet.

Give us a light there, ho!

Banquo is asking someone for a light, a torch.

Then ’tis he: the rest / That are within the note of expectation / Already are i’ the court.

Then it must be he. The rest of the the guests expected at the banquet are already there.

His horses go about.

His horses are walking around.

We can assume that Banquo and Fleance have dismounted, and are walking with their horses.

Almost a mile: but he does usually, / So all men do, from hence to the palace gate / Make it their walk.

And here’s the reason. Banquo usually does this, and so does everyone else — walk this last mile to the palace, rather than ride.

We assume a pleasant approach, an inviting walk, to the castle.

A light, a light!

The Second Murderer calls out that he sees some light, Fleance’s torch.

’tis he.

That’s him.

Stand to’t.

Get ready.

It will be rain to-night.

Banquo’s casual comment shows that he’s unaware of the waiting murderers.

Let it come down.

Let’s do it.

They set upon Banquo.

They attack Banquo.

O, treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly! / Thou mayst revenge. O slave!

Treachery! Run, Fleance, run! You may be able to avenge this.

(Speaking to a murderer:) You slave! (This was a great insult.)

Who did strike out the light?

Who put out the light?

Was’t not the way?

Wasn’t that what we were supposed to do? Wasn’t that the plan?

There’s but one down; the son is fled.

We’ve killed only one. The son has escaped.

We have lost / Best half of our affair.

We’ve only done half of what we were supposed to do.

Well, let’s away, and say how much is done.

Well, let’s leave and report (to Macbeth) what we’ve accomplished.

There is, presumably, no practical way for them to chase Fleance down in the dark.

Aside

In an aside, the character speaks privately to himself for a moment, or directly to the audience, or privately to some (but not all) of the other characters present.

As a matter of convention, an aside is always a true statement of what the character thinks. A character speaking in an aside may be mistaken, but may not be dishonest.

An aside (again as a matter of convention) cannot be heard by those not spoken to.

Exit

The character leaves the stage.

Exeunt Murderers.

Latin, literally “they leave.” The Murderers leave the stage.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.

Exeunt all but Macbeth and an attendant.

Latin, literally “they leave.” Most of the players leave the stage, leaving Macbeth alone with an attendant.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.

Exeunt

Latin, literally “they leave.” Everyone leaves the stage.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.