Duncan: See, see, our honour’d hostess!
The love that follows us sometime is our trouble,
Which still we thank as love. Herein I teach you
How you shall bid God ‘ild us for your pains,
And thank us for your trouble.
Banquo: So I lose none
In seeking to augment it, but still keep
My bosom franchised and allegiance clear,
I shall be counsell’d.
Duncan Character Profile from CliffNotes:
The king of Scotland should be a figurehead of order and orderliness, and Duncan is the epitome, or supreme example, of this. His language is formal and his speeches full of grace and graciousness, whether on the battlefield in Act I, Scene 2, where his talk concerns matters of honor, or when greeting his kind hostess Lady Macbeth in Act I, Scene 6. Duncan also expresses humility (a feature that Macbeth lacks) when he admits his failure in spotting the previous Thane of Cawdor’s treachery: “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face” (I: 4,11).
Most importantly, Duncan is the representative of God on earth, ruling by divine right (ordained by God), a feature of kingship strongly endorsed by King James I, for whom the play was performed in 1606. This “divinity” of the king is made clear on several occasions in the play, most notably when Macbeth talks of the murdered Duncan as having “silver skin lac’d with . . . golden blood” (Act II, Scene 3). The importance of royal blood, that is, the inheritance of the divine right to rule, is emphasized when, in the final scene, Duncan’s son Malcolm takes the title of king, with the words “by the grace of Grace / We will perform.”
Banquo Character Profile from CliffNotes:
Banquo is Macbeth’s brave and noble best friend, as well as his second victim. Banquo enters the play with Macbeth after both have fought valiantly for Duncan’s side in a recent battle. Duncan acknowledges Banquo as “no less deserved” of praise than Macbeth, but from the beginning of the play Banquo is overshadowed by Macbeth’s accomplishments and ambition. However, Banquo is not entirely without ambition of his own. He asks for a prophecy from the Witches, too, and is pleased to learn that his children will rule Scotland. Similar to Macbeth, Banquo seems unable to understand the cost of the Witches’ prophecy will be his life. In Act III, murderers kill Banquo at Macbeth’s command, and try to kill his young son, Fleance, who manages to get away. Soon after his death, Banquo appears in the form of a ghost at the banquet the Macbeths give at their castle. At play’s end, Banquo’s greatest import remains offstage: his son, Fleance, who could come back to revenge his father’s death and take the throne of Scotland, fulfilling the Witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s sons will one day be king.
John the Baptist – Wiki:
John the Baptist is mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus and revered as a major religious figure in Christianity, Islam, the Bahá’í Faith, and Mandaeism. He is called a prophet by all of these faiths, and is honored as a saint in many Christian traditions. According to the New Testament, John anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself and Christians commonly refer to John as the precursor or forerunner of Jesus, since John announces Jesus’ coming.
P.S. Most people know the story!
John Comnenus – Niketas Chionates 12th C Byzantine writer:
As soon as the evil had passed, a member of the Comnenus family, John by name, rebelled against the Emperor…
Note: In Choniates’ work the following is written immediately after the above sentence (31 July 1200/1202?) However, some old Russian texts place this event before the execution of Andronicus I Comnenus in 1185.
(John Comnenus was…) potbellied and with a body shaped like a barrel, he was nicknamed ‘The Fat.’ Without warning he slipped into the great church and placed on his head one of the small crowns which hung suspended all around the altar. He was joined by those who chose to support his cause (they were many and almost all of noble blood,) and when no small number of the masses who had learned what was afoot came running they gained easy access to the palace. As he sat on a golden throne, John promoted certain of his followers to the highest offices, and the mob and some of the rebels poured through the agorae and the streets and reached the shore, where they proclaimed him Emperor of the Romans and pulled down the magnificent dwellings there.
At nightfall, John neglected to set a guard over the palace as was necessary, nor did he restore the overthrown gates. Since no one had opposed him, he behaved as though he were safely ensconced; overcome by thirst because he was so corpulent, he emptied out whole jars of water, spouting like a dolphin and boiled off the drops of perspiration that gushed forth as from a spring and evaporated from the heat (N.B. This sentence!!)
His troops went to the splendid Hippodrome but lounged about without any purpose, and at sundown the mobs dispersed like flocks of birds in their desire to rise up early so they could come running together to once again fall upon the magnificent buildings and search out their contents.
The Emperor gathered together his KINSMEN and veteran troops and dispatched them early in the morning to attack John. Not even through the early dawn was the City’s throng content to remain at rest; most were anxious to band together about the tyrant at the first break of day to assist him in his task and to fight against the Imperial troops in many ways.
One group boarded ships and put in a the Monastery of Hodegoi, where they came to grips with the Emperors bodyguards; no armed men were able to pass through the centre of the City.
In the theatre they (the Imperial troops) clashed abruptly with John’s partisans, whom they dispersed easily, and with the greatest of ease they attacked and killed John, inflicted blows all over his body as if he were a fatted beast. His severed head was first brought to the Emperor, and then, still grinning horribly and spurting out blood, it was suspended from the arch of the agora in full view of the public.
It is pretty obvious, reading around Choniates text that Alexios III Angelos was not happy about executing John Comnenus because he feared a mighty rebellion. But with the insistence of his Kinsmen (!) he went ahead.
Duncan and Banquo are placed together here because they both play the same role, that of a person who had no animosity towards Macbeth but who stood in the way of Lady M’s vaunting ambition.
Banquo returns later in the play, the ghost at the feast haunting Macbeth – “Avaunt! and quit my sight! let the earth hide thee! Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold; Thou hast no speculation in those eyes Which thou dost glare with!”
Why is the reference above about John Comnenus drinking water so important?
Most know that Shakespeare supposedly took inspiration for his plays from Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles. I’ve had these Chronicles forever and two days on my shelves and, reading through his Macbeth story, there is a strange fact about Duncan that doesn’t make it into Shakespeare’s final work.
Holinshed describes Duncan as having a strange unnamed sweating illness. An illness that finds him covered in sweat although his complexion is bright and healthy.
Just saying :o)
“Lay on, Macduff, And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!'”