MACBETH—THE MURDER OF BANQUO
King Duncan had two sons, one called Malcolm Canmore,
or Bighead, the other Donald Bane, or White. When
these two princes heard what had happened to their father,
they fled away, fearful that Macbeth would kill them
Malcolm Canmore fled to England to the court of
Edward the Confessor. Edward received him very kindly,
for he remembered that he too had been driven from his
own land and had been an exile in France for many years.
Donald Bane fled to Ireland. The King there also received
him kindly and treated him with honour.
Macbeth then caused himself to be crowned. And
because he was so strong and powerful the lords and
people of Scotland accepted him as King.
And although he had come to the throne in such an
evil way, Macbeth proved to be a good king. For some
years he ruled well, if sternly. He made good laws ; he
punished the wicked, and rewarded the good, and tried
in every way to make people forget how he had won
But the people did not forget, and they did not love
Macbeth. Neither could Macbeth forget what he had
done. Although he was a good king, he was a most
unhappy man. When he thought of the three Weird
88 SCOTLAND’S STORY
Sisters and their words he felt more unhappy still. For
he remembered that they had said that Banquo‘s children,
and not his, should rule over Scotland.
Then he began to hate Banquo and to fear him. ‘ Will
not Banquo kill me in order to get the crown just as I
killed Duncan ? ‘ he asked himself. The more he thought
of it the more sure he felt that Banquo would murder
him, and at last he made up his mind to rid himself of
One evening Macbeth asked Banquo and his son
Fleance to supper. Suspecting no evil, they came.
Macbeth provided a splendid supper for them which
lasted until very late. At last when it was quite
dark and every one else had gone to bed, Banquo and
Fleance said goodnight and started homeward.
Now Macbeth intended that they should never reach
home again. He dared not kill them in his own house
lest people should find out that he was the murderer. So
he paid a large sum of money to wicked men, who pro
mised to lie in wait for Banquo and Fleance and kill them
on their way home from the supper.
In the quiet, dark night, as father and son walked
home together, these wicked men suddenly set upon
them and tried to kill them. They did kill Banquo, but
Fleance escaped through the darkness and fled away to
Wales. There he lived safely for a long time, and
married a Welsh lady. Many years after, his son Walter
came back to Scotland. Walter was kindly received by
the King who was then on the throne, and he was made
Lord High Steward of Scotland. He was called Walter
the Steward. The title was given to his sons and grand-
90ns after him, and soon Steward, or Stewart, came to be
used as the surname of his family. For in those days
people often received their names from their work or
THE MURDER OF BANQUO 89
office. At last a High Steward married a royal princess.
Their son became King, and was thus the founder of a
race of Stewart kings who reigned for many years in
In this way what the Weird Sisters had foretold to
Banquo came to pass.
After the murder of Banquo, Macbeth was no happier,
nor did he feel any safer than before. Indeed he began
to dread, and to look upon every man as an enemy.
Macbeth’s fears turned him into a tyrant. For very
little cause he would put a noble to death and take his
land and money for himself. No man knew when his
life was safe, and the nobles one and all began to dread
At length Macbeth found pleasure only in putting
his nobles to death, for in this way he not only rid
himself of his enemies, but he became daily richer and
With the money of the dead nobles he paid an army
of soldiers, some of whom he kept always round himself
as a bodyguard. But in spite of his army of soldiers
Macbeth’s fear of being killed grew greater and greater.
At last he went to the Weird Sisters to ask them for
‘ How shall I keep myself safe,’ he asked, ‘ when
every one around me is trying to find a way to kill me ? ’
And the old women answered :—
‘ Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care
Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are ;
Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him.’
Macbeth went home feeling much comforted and quite
safe, for how could Birnam wood come to Dunsinane ?
40 SCOTLAND’S STORY
They were twelve miles apart, and it was impossible for
trees to uproot themselves and walk all these miles
through the valley to the hill beyond. Macbeth
began to believe that he would never be killed at all.
Feeling safe, he treated his nobles even worse than before,
so that they grew to hate him more and more, and many
of them turned their thoughts to the banished sons of the
gracious King Duncan, and longed for one of them to
come and be their King.
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