Macbeth, in terror: which of you have done this?! (3.4.43-49) #DaggerDrawn #SlowShakespeare

ROSS                           Please’t your highness

To grace us with your royal company?

MACBETH                              The table’s full.

LENNOX         Here is a place reserved, sir.

MACBETH      Where?

LENNOX                     Here, my good lord.

[Macbeth sees the Ghost]

What is’t that moves your highness?

MACBETH      Which of you have done this?

LORDS            What, my good lord?

MACBETH      [to the Ghost] Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake

Thy gory locks at me.                        (3.4.43-49)

 

It’s just so economical, so properly uncanny: Macbeth’s the only one who can see Banquo’s ghost (as is quickly going to become apparent)—except unlike with the daggers (please, no visible daggers) the audience can see the ghost too. (More refined, then, even than Hamlet, and perhaps filed away as an effect from the ‘closet’ scene, when Hamlet can see his father’s ghost but Gertrude his mother can’t.) Ross and Lennox, meanwhile, carry on, being polite, perhaps slightly competing with each other: sit down, please, says Ross, we’re longing for your royal company, flattering, courteous, probably less crawling than it comes across on the page. And then that matter of fact, slightly baffled, the table’s full. Lennox, jumping in, seizing the initiative from Ross or working together with him as Macbeth’s most loyal supporters (perhaps they’re pleased that Banquo isn’t there?) Here is a place reserved, sir. Formal, obsequious, or cheery, what’s the boss like, can’t he see it, right there? And then Macbeth sees, and the audience must have by now too. (Depending on staging, the noticing of Banquo’s ghost might not be simultaneous, but run like a shudder through the audience, a shiver up the spine, a dig in the ribs, a whisper.) What is’t that moves your highness? asks Lennox, ever solicitous, but also worried, puzzled. So there’s been a reaction, even if it’s just a pause, a silence. The sheer lonely paranoia of Macbeth’s first utterance: which of you have done this? he knew they were out to get him, he didn’t trust them, and now this, a terrible spectacle, a trick, a betrayal; depending on staging, how dead and spectral Banquo looks, it could suggest that Banquo’s alive, or that Macbeth legitimately thinks that he might be, and so Macbeth might also be asking, who did this, who attacked Banquo? What, my good lord? Now everyone’s involved, not just Lennox and Ross: what’s going on? what’s this disturbance? (And what’s Lady Macbeth doing? How in control is she, who’s she looking at, is she looking at what he’s looking at, like everyone else, or looking at Macbeth himself?) Paranoia again, and guilt, and shame, as Macbeth addresses the Ghost (probably; editorial stage direction, but it makes sense). Thou canst not say I did it. It wasn’t me! He admits his guilt in that very phrase, the panicked admission of tyrants and bullies everywhere. Another implicit stage direction: never shake thy gory locks at me. Don’t call me a liar by shaking your head, in denial, disagreement, sorrow, admonition. The gory locks: Banquo’s hair is bloody too, or at least described as being so, another indication of the violence of his death. But who thinks what, about what’s happening in the moment, and what’s happened to Banquo—that’s all left deliciously open to interpretation.

 

Well. This is turning into quite a supper party.

 

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