7 of Crowns - Banquo
Dramatis Personae: the ghost of Banquo; Apparitions.
Text & Context: At the outset of the Scottish play, Banquo and Macbeth are as brothers. The prophesies of the 3 Weird Sisters propagates a schism between these thanes which culminates in both their deaths. And yet Banquo not only carries on as a ghost, but the branch of the Scottish royal line Macbeth attempted to sever flourishes - not through the childless Thane of Cawdor - but the scions of the Thane of Lochaber.
Macbeth commits a crime he knows to be wrong, having cultivated in himself notions of its rightness. Of Macbeth and his Lady, unnatural deeds do breed, and increasingly, neither can live with the fruits of their labours. Like the prophet Daniel at Belshazzar's feast, Banquo prevents Macbeth from deriving sustenance from the seeds of his actions, insinuating instead Christ's counsel, "What shall it profit a man, though he should win the whole world, if he lose his soul?" Macbeth, banking on a banquet, is banquished.
Weird, from German werd, literally means "that which comes", but the fortunes foretold by the witches don't necessitate a fixed fate. Macbeth is free to act differently, to choose which - quid or quo. If he had acted differently, the witches would've spoken different words. Instead, Macbeth excuses away his short-changing of nature with the mangled language of the unnatural. Through self-deception indicative of an overactive imagination, he throws good money after bad by refusing to respond to the witches' words rationally, and so reaps what he sows. Banquo is buried, for he is the seed; Macbeth is a husk whose vaulting ambition draws the wine of life, until "the mere lees is left this vault to brag of."
Subtext: Like Macbeth's interpretations of the witches' prophecies, attempts to see in Macbeth allusions to the Gunpowder Plot or homage to James' coronation is too clever by half. James abhorred witchcraft, was deeply frightened by it; its blatant depiction on stage with implication the supernatural contributed to his royal lineage is clearly misguided. Also highly unsound is the proposition James - a man whose father was assassinated and mother decapitated - would be entertained by a play spilling over with murder and bloodshed.
Rather what we have is a play wherein the protagonist's act of betrayal and agonized imagination reflect the state of mind of the author. Elizabeth vacillated regarding the fate of her cousin and James' mother, Mary Queen of Scots. The tribunal of 36 peers who found her guilty of conspiracy was headed by the Lord Great Chamberlain of England, Edward de Vere. Mary had been arrested as a guest of Elizabeth, as Duncan had been a guest of Macbeth - hence, "double trust". Note, too, the double "house" they share: beth.
In Macbeth we may also see Bothwell, Mary's lover who murdered her husband and James' father, Lord Darnley, and then married the Queen [Lady Macbeth was married before her marriage to Macbeth and had a child]. Darnley' parents, the Earl and Countess of Lennox, spearheaded the campaign against Bothwell. Oxford, who at age 20 fought alongside the 3rd Earl of Sussex against the Northern Uprising in Scotland, was friends with the Lennox family. Lennox fails to figure in the historical account of Macbeth; Shakespeare makes him pivotal. The Countess Lennox had in her possession the Buik of Croniclis of Scotland by William Stewart, not published until the mid-19th Century, yet one of the possible sources of Macbeth.
Rather than a gloomy, violent tragedy written for a new monarch fearful of witchcraft and assassination, Macbeth is likely an early play reflecting the author's time in Scotland. As a young man, Oxford took an interest in the supernatural, reported witnessing apparitions, and began a correspondence with the occult philosopher John Dee. An early composition explains the play's short length, simplicity of story, gore, and need for later revision - first by the author, and finally by Thomas Middleton.
The killings of both Duncan and Macbeth bear many similarities to the killing of the Duke of Guise by Henry III and his own subsequent murder. His mother Catharine de'Medici's involvement, herself acquainted with the occult and Mary Queen of Scots, suggest Lady Macbeth. The regicide of the French King, whom Oxford had met in 1575, along with de Vere's involvement in the regicide of James' mother at roughly the same time, suggest a revision date circa. 1589.
Intertext: The Tower XVI Macbeth