Lady Macbeth rang for a servant. When he came in to her room she said: ‘Has Banquo gone from court?’
‘Yes, Madam, but he’s coming back tonight.’
‘Tell the king I’d like to see him when he’s free. Just for a few words, tell him.’
Lady Macbeth couldn’t settle down to anything. She felt very painfully that we gain nothing and waste everything when we get what we want without it bringing us happiness. It would be better to be Duncan than to be alive but tortured with fears and doubts.
She heard Macbeth’s footsteps approaching and she ran to the door to meet him.
‘Oh hello, my Lord,’ she said, taking his hand. ‘Why do you hide away with your sad thoughts? They should have died with the person they’re thinking of. You shouldn’t worry about things you can’t do anything about. What’s done is done.’
‘We’ve wounded the snake, not killed it,’ he said. ‘And it will recover and bite us. It will take forever to get rid of these nightmares that shake me nightly. It would be better to be with the one we killed, because we gave him peace, than to be king and be tortured like this. Duncan’s in his grave. After the fever of life he sleeps well.’ Macbeth smiled grimly. ‘Treason has done him a favour. Nothing – neither steel nor poison, personal problems nor politics – nothing can touch him any more.’
Lady Macbeth sat down and drew him down beside her. ‘Come on, my love. Don’t look so downcast. Be bright and jovial with your guests tonight.’
He looked up at her and smiled. ‘I will, my love. And I hope you will be too. And I want you to pay particular attention to Banquo. Treat him as a special guest – in every way: how you look at him and what you say to him. We must be careful not to drop our guard.’
He sunk his head into his hands and sobbed. She put her arms around his neck. ‘You must stop this,’ she said.
‘Oh, my mind is full of scorpions,’ he said. ‘You know that Banquo and Fleance are still alive!’
‘But they won’t live forever.’
‘That’s true,’ he said. ‘So cheer up.’ He smiled. ‘Something dreadful’s going to happen to them by nightfall.’
‘Let it be a surprise, dearest darling,’ he said. He went to the window and looked out. ‘Come darkest night, and blindfold the caring eye of gentle day. With your bloody and invisible hand rip to pieces those lives that keep me in a state of fear. Ah, the light’s getting thick and crows are flying into the dark woods: all the good things of day are closing their eyes while the things of night are waking up.’
He turned. ‘You don’t understand what I’m saying, do you? But just wait, and you’ll see. Once you start doing evil things you get strength from continuing with them. So. Come, let’s go.’