Object Image

The Banquet Scene in Macbeth

This picture is the most celebrated of all representations of Act 3, scene 4 in Shakespeare's Macbeth, when the murdered Banquo appears to Macbeth at a banquet. His legs giving way beneath him with terror, Macbeth tries to avert his eyes from the shadow in the right foreground. The guests stare in surprise at him, as Lady Macbeth - the principal figure in the composition - firmly grips her husband and takes control of the situation.

You may easily miss it at first, but the ghost is looming, dark and terrible, in the foreground, with the viewer encouraged to imagine the horrors Macbeth sees on the apparation's face. The perspective positions the viewer as though in a theatre audience, further suggested by the procenium arch-shaped framing.

By this stage in his career Shakespearean subjects had virtually replaced all other literary and historical themes in Maclise's work, but it was the huge success of this picture at the Royal Academy in 1840 that established his reputation as a major artist.

No. 830

Presented by F. W. Cosens, 1904

Oil on canvas
Image and text © Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London, 2022

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