By Lowell Gallagher, Shankar Raman (eds.)

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Banquo’s own reaction to the witches is less passionate. “As a realist whose imagination, unlike Macbeth’s, has yet no seed of treason or evil,” Richard J. 6 While Banquo, after his initial shock at 38 Sean H. 58–9), one has the impression that they have made public some of Macbeth’s secret fantasies about greater glory, which accounts for some, but not all, of Macbeth’s disquiet. Banquo also may have aspired to greater social heights, but if so, never as strongly as Macbeth. Already, within a few lines, the minds and motivations of both characters appear very different.

Hume answered that “it was possible that a piece of coal put on the fire would not burn; but he added that it was a most unreasonable fancy that we should exist forever” (1970: 11). Upon further prodding, the philosopher insisted that the “thought of his annihilation never gave him any unease … no more than the thought that he had not been” (1970: 12). Famously, this steadfast denial of a world and an existence beyond the senses radically unsettled Boswell, who testifies to feeling a degree of horror, mixed with a sort of wild, strange, hurrying recollection of my excellent mother’s pious instructions, of Dr Johnson’s noble lessons, and of my religious sentiments and affections during the course of my life.

Reid, “humors form a somatic theater for the rational soul, which may actively govern humoral flux, passively submit to its urgings, or slyly counterfeit other tempers, effecting subtle paradox in the body–soul relation” (1996–7: 471). Moreover, just as the humors are more flexible than we normally suppose, so, too, are the primary passions, which “ultimately join” the humors “in a stately dance” of behavior (1996–7: 472). Macbeth’s fault is more than a superabundance of ambition; he also suffers from strong anger (as described on the battlefield), excessive guilt (especially after the murders of Duncan and Banquo), excessive fear (or paranoia, as we would call it today), and despair.

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