home contact


Please see the bottom of the page for full explanatory notes and helpful resources.

ACT III SCENE III A park near the palace. 
[Enter Three Murderers]
First MurdererBut who did bid thee join with us?
Third MurdererMacbeth.
Second MurdererHe needs not our mistrust, since he delivers
Our offices and what we have to do
To the direction just.
First MurdererThen stand with us.
The west yet glimmers with some streaks of day:
Now spurs the lated traveller apace
To gain the timely inn; and near approaches
The subject of our watch.
Third MurdererHark! I hear horses.
BANQUO[Within] Give us a light there, ho!
Second MurdererThen 'tis he: the rest
That are within the note of expectation10
Already are i' the court.
First MurdererHis horses go about.
Third MurdererAlmost a mile: but he does usually,
So all men do, from hence to the palace gate

Make it their walk.
Second MurdererA light, a light!
[Enter BANQUO, and FLEANCE with a torch]
Third Murderer'Tis he.
First MurdererStand to't.
BANQUOIt will be rain to-night.
First MurdererLet it come down.
[They set upon BANQUO]
BANQUOO, treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!
Thou mayst revenge. O slave!
[Dies. FLEANCE escapes]
Third MurdererWho did strike out the light?
First MurdererWast not the way?
Third MurdererThere's but one down; the son is fled.
Second MurdererWe have lost
Best half of our affair.20
First MurdererWell, let's away, and say how much is done.

Next: Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 4

Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 3
From Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co.
(Line numbers have been altered.)


This scene, short as it is, contains the climax of the drama. So far everything has been in Macbeth's favour, and, outwardly at least, his career has been one unbroken series of successes. The escape of Fleance is his first piece of bad luck. From this time on, however, everything goes wrong with Macbeth. The various incidents that contribute to his downfall will be pointed out as they occur in the course of the action. It is enough, here, to call the attention of the student to the fact that this scene is the turning-point of the drama.

It has been rather foolishly asserted that the Third Murderer who appears in this scene is Macbeth himself. Had Shakespeare meant this, we may be sure that he would have given the audience a hint to that effect. The speeches of Macbeth to the First Murderer in the next scene show conclusively, I think, that he was ignorant of the details of the assault on Banquo, which would not have been the case had he himself been one of the murderers. We may perhaps take the Third Murderer to be the "perfect spy" of iii. I. 130 whom Macbeth sends at the last moment as a re-enforcement to the ambush.

2. needs not our mistrust, we need not distrust him. The Second Murderer says these words to the First, who is evidently suspicious of the newcomer. He goes on to say that the third man has repeated Macbeth's instructions as to the time and place of the deed exactly as they were given in the first place, "to the direction just," which shows that he comes straight from the king.

3. offices, business.

7. timely, appropriate to the time, welcome.

8. The subject of our watch, the man we are waiting for.

9. Give us a light, Banquo says these words to one of his servants. He sends them on the winding road with the horses while he and Fleance take the straight path through the woods to the palace. Fleance carries the torch to light them on their way.

10. the note of expectation, the list of the expected guests.

11. about, the long way around.

15. stand to't, get ready.

16. It will be rain to-night. This remark of Banquo's shows how utterly unprepared he is for the treacherous assault.

17, 18. It is characteristic of the brave and self-possessed Banquo, that even at this terrible moment he thinks of his son, and contrives to get him away in the hope that he may revenge his father's death.

19. Was't not the way? Was not that the right thing to do?

20, 21. lost Best half of our affair, left the best part of our work undone.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co., 1904. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. < >.

More Resources

 The Chronology of Shakespeare's Plays
 Establishing the Order of the Plays
 How Many Plays Did Shakespeare Write?
 Shakespeare Timeline

 Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
 Words Shakespeare Invented
 Quotations About William Shakespeare

 Portraits of Shakespeare
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels
 Top 10 Shakespeare Plays

 Shakespeare's Metaphors and Similes
 Shakespeare's Blank Verse
 Shakespeare Timeline

 Edward Alleyn (Actor)
 What is Tragic Irony?
 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy

Was Macbeth the Third Murderer?

"Absent and alone four or five hours, how had Macbeth been employed? With such a dreadful matter at issue, he could not have been resting or engaged in any other business. He must have been taken up with the intended murder some way or other; and, for ourselves, we cannot conceive of his going to the banquet with the barest chance of his plot miscarrying, and of Banquo's arriving in the midst of the gaiety, with the narrative of the inexplicable and alarming attempt. But if he waited away till his mind would be relieved by a knowledge of the assassination, this could not have been, unless he was personally engaged in it, because it was after he went that he was told." Allan Park Paton. Read on...


More to Explore

 Macbeth: The Complete Play with Commentary
 The Metre of Macbeth: Blank Verse and Rhymed Lines
 Macbeth Character Introduction
 Metaphors in Macbeth (Biblical)

 Figures of Speech in Macbeth
 A Comparison of Macbeth and Hamlet
 The Theme of Macbeth
 The Curse of Macbeth

 Explanatory Notes for Lady Macbeth's Soliloquy (1.5)
 The Psychoanalysis of Lady Macbeth (Sleepwalking Scene)
 The Effect of Lady Macbeth's Death on Macbeth
 Is Lady Macbeth's Swoon Real?

 Elizabethan Use of Mummified Flesh
 Three Apparitions in Macbeth
 Supernatural Soliciting in Shakespeare
 Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth

 Macbeth, Duncan and Shakespeare's Changes
 King James I and Shakespeare's Sources for Macbeth
 Contemporary References to King James I in Macbeth
 The Royal Patent that Changed Shakespeare's Life

 Soliloquy Analysis: If it were done when 'tis done (1.7.1-29)
 Soliloquy Analysis: Is this a dagger (2.1.33-61)
 Soliloquy Analysis: To be thus is nothing (3.1.47-71)
 Soliloquy Analysis: She should have died hereafter (5.5.17-28)


Did You Know? ... Shakespeare presents Banquo as being noble and good throughout the play, unaware of the ominous plot concocted by Macbeth and his Lady. As with most of the changes implemented by Shakespeare from the original source, Banquo's portrayal serves all three purposes: dramatic, thematic, and political. Read On...


 Explanatory Notes for the Witches' Chants (4.1)
 Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 1 and 2)
 Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 3, 4 and 5)
 How to Stage a Production of Macbeth (Scene Suggestions)

 Shakespeare's Sources for Macbeth
 Macbeth Q & A
 Essay Topics on Macbeth
 Aesthetic Examination Questions on Macbeth
 What is Tragic Irony?

 Stages of Plot Development in Macbeth
 Time Analysis of the Action in Macbeth
 Macbeth Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
 Quotations from Macbeth (Full)
 Top 10 Quotations from Macbeth

 Crafting a Sympathetic Macbeth
 The Moral Character of Macbeth
 Origin of the Weird Sisters

 Temptation, Sin, Retribution: Lecture Notes on Macbeth
 Untie the winds: Exploring the Witches' Control Over Nature
 Shakespeare on Omens

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers