Scotland's Story Chapter IX. 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 fattier, they fled away, fearful that
Macbeth would kill them too.
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
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 be had
won the crown.
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 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 this fear.
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, l3anquo and Fleance said good-night and started homeward.
Now Macbeth intended that they should never reach home
again, lie 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
promised 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 borne 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- eons 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 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 Scotland.
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.
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 the King.
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 richer.
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 advice.
'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?
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
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