A tyrant’s treachery – the start of the downfall
King Duncan has just been murdered and “brave Macbeth” (1 ii 18) has been crowned king. Duncan’s two sons, Donalbain and Malcolm, fled for fear for their lives and for arousing suspicion. Lennox and a fellow Lord have met in the palace at Forres. Here they discuss the current political situation in Scotland. As a result of this scene, people begin to distrust Macbeth’s legitimacy:
My former speeches
Have but hit your thoughts,
Which can interpret farther, only I say
Thing’s have been strangely borne. The gracious Duncan
Was pitied of Macbeth – marry he was dead.
And the right valiant Banquo walked too late –
Whom, you may say, if ...view middle of the document...
A possible reason for these strange occurrences is the upheaval of the Great Chain of Being due to Macbeth’s actions. The audience knows why the upheaval is occurring – an example of dramatic irony.
Lennox goes on to joke about Macbeth’s lie – that he was sorry for Duncan – and the truth, which was that he was sorry for Duncan only after Duncan was murdered:
The gracious Duncan
Was pitied of Macbeth – marry, he was dead.
And the right valiant Banquo walked too late - (4-6)
According to Macbeth, Banquo died because he took a walk too late at night. By describing Banquo as “right” and “valiant”, Lennox is portraying Banquo positively and is pronouncing that Banquo is not in league with his former best friend. Lennox describes Duncan as “gracious”. On the other hand, by not using any positive adjectives to describe Macbeth, Lennox reveals his dislike for the new king.
Because Fleance fled from the scene of the murder, Macbeth now states that Fleance killed him:
Whom, you may say, if it please you, Fleance killed,
For Fleance fled. Men must not walk too late. - (7-8)
These two lines of the play are recited with heavy sarcasm, which denotes not only Lennox’s belief that it is absurd for a child such as Fleance to kill his father, but also that Macbeth is framing someone else for one of his murders. This draws similarities to the way that Macbeth framed Malcolm and Donalbain for Duncan’s death. Shakespeare uses “too late” to connote malevolent deeds happening after dark. An example of alliteration, “For Fleance fled”, adds greater impact to the line, almost as if Lennox is spitting out the phrase. Heavy sarcasm in the last sentence of this part gives the audience the feeling that Lennox is ridiculing Macbeth’s explanation of Banquo’s death.
Similar to Fleance, Malcolm and Donalbain also fled. However, they fled to England to be out of Macbeth’s grasp. “How monstrous it was for” these two “to kill their gracious father!” More of Macbeth’s lies. Lennox confirms everyone’s suspicions that Malcolm and Donalbain did not kill their father:
Who cannot want the thought, how monstrous
It was for Malcolm and for Donalbain 10
To kill their gracious father? Damned fact! - (9-11)
Twice, Lennox uses the word “gracious” to describe Duncan. This repeated use of the word reinforces the audience’s feelings about Duncan being the benevolent king. Which directly contradicts the representation being created of Macbeth. Lennox describes the murder of Duncan as “monstrous” to imply a monster is at work. Throughout this piece and the play, Shakespeare uses binary oppositions to position the audience’s view of the two kings. Duncan is described as gracious and who hath been so clear in his great office (1 vii 17-18) and Macbeth is described as treacherous, tyrannical and not fit to live (4 iii 20-117).
Lennox goes on to criticize Macbeth’s feelings:
How it did...