The Third Murderer In Shakespeare's Macbeth

902 words - 4 pages

The Third Murderer in Macbeth        

   Although Shakespeare had a great flare for plot material, he often had trouble with loose ends. Many times, seemingly important people will disappear from the script; they are never seen again. And other times, characters will suddenly appear out of nowhere. One such inconsistency is the identity of the third murderer in Macbeth.


At the beginning of 3.3, the third murderer makes his entrance.

FIRST MURDERER: But who did bid thee join with us?


SECOND MURDERER: He needs not our mistrust: since he delivers/ Our offices and what we have to do/ To the direction just. (3.3.1-4)

It is clear that the other two murderers had no prior knowledge that another would be joining them. The shortness of response by the Third Murderer may indicate that he is lying about who sent him. If Macbeth had hired a third man, he probably would have informed the original murderers. Much speculation is put to the thought that Macbeth sent one of his aides as a sort of baby-sitter to make sure that everything went as planned. The most popular choices as chaperones are Seyton and Ross (Iago; Spielbauer). However, if Macbeth had sent another man, wouldn't he also have instructed him to report back to him? The First Murderer is the only one to return to the castle. The Second and Third Murderer disappear and the audience never sees them again. If the additional man were Seyton or Ross, wouldn't it have been he who would take the news back to Macbeth? If perchance, Macbeth's spy should have made it back before the First Murderer arrived, why would Macbeth put on such a show of surprise at the events of the evening? Unless one of them was working on his own will, it was probably neither Seyton nor Ross.

Not quite as popular a belief is that the Third Murderer is Macduff. He was invited to Macbeth's banquet, but did not attend. It turns out that he is on his way to England to find Malcolm, and help him become achieve his rightful place as King. No one knew where he was, which probably meant that he had left quite recently. Macduff was fully aware of Macbeth's tyranny and ruthlessness, and may have found out about the plot to slay Banquo. In 3.3.12-4, "Almost a mile: but he does usually-/ So all men do- from hence to th' palace gate/ make it their walk," it is hinted that the Third Murderer knows Banquo, at least by habit. Commoners would not know by what path a thane goes to the castle. It seems that he made the slip of this information and tried to cover it up with the "So all men do-". If the...

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