In literature, a character who highlights the distinctive traits of the main character by contrasting them is known as a foil. The character who represents the foil to Macbeth, in the play Macbeth, is Banquo. The two characters have a clear contrast in their traits. The most evident characteristics that allows the readers to see their differences are their cautiousness, loyalty, and ambition. Banquo serves in the play as a foil to Macbeth, for which their distinctive traits emphasizes the extent of Macbeth’s darkness and lust for power.
For one, Banquo and Macbeth take different caution towards the three witches and the prophecies they have given. After hearing that Macbeth was going to become the Thane of Cawdor and the king, he was eager to hear the witches say more. Macbeth doesn’t first question the truthfulness of the prophecies, but instead he believes them to be true. His lack of caution in this scene caused his desire for power, for which it was strong and impaired his judgement.
On the other hand, Banquo questions the prophecies and the intentions of the evil creatures. In the play, Banquo states, “The instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray ‘s in deepest consequence”(Act 1, Scene 3). This quote shows that Banquo believes that evil only offers gifts that lead to destruction. Although Banquo is interested in prophecy of his descendants being kings, he refuses to let it prevent him from being cautious that the witches might have given him false truths.
This reveals that his want for power is not as great as Macbeth’s that it would overtake his sense of caution and judgement.