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Free-will as a determining factor in Macbeth

Uploaded by Joe_Man500 on Oct 18, 2002

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tragic play which details the rise and fall of King Macbeth of Scotland. The impetus for the play’s dark progression, along with the source of Macbeth’s status as a tragic figure, is an encounter between Macbeth and three witches which portends his rise to the throne, his descent into tyranny and his ultimate demise. Some may consider the fulfillment of these witches’ predictions as a clear sign that Macbeth’s path is a fated one, destined to happen. Instead, the witches’ manipulation of Macbeth, his own self-doubt and conflicting thought, and his self-realizing ambition show that it is free-will – and not fate – that determined the course of Shakespeare’s play.

While some may consider the weird sisters’ foretelling of Macbeth’s future as a sign of his predestined fate, the witches’ themselves cannot be relied upon as accurate oracles. Instead, they make reasonable assumptions as to the natural course of Scottish politics and utilize their limited abilities to ensure that their predictions come to pass. This is first seen after the witches hail Macbeth as thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo, upon learning of the previous thane’s fate from the messenger, both marveled at the witches’ apparent ability of prophesy, even though Macbeth had already been named thane of Cawdor. This influences the two men into believing that their other prophecies will come to pass. This, in turn, spurred Macbeth to action, which caused him to fulfill – through his own free will, though influenced by the witches’ suggestions of a possible kingship – his own predictions. The witches themselves possess no real power to ensure that their predictions come to pass. This is seen during the witches’ conversation, as the first witch relates the tale of the sailor whose boat she could not directly destroy, but could only “tempest-toss.” Thus, the witches enact this same kind of power to affect the course of events. This shows that the life of Macbeth is not fated to occur, but is directly influenced by the will of specific individuals.

Another aspect of Macbeth which clearly shows free will taking precedence over fate is shown by Macbeth‘s deliberations and asides he makes while trying to realize his own ambitions. This is seen in numerous places before the murder of King Duncan (and even after). When initially confronted with the prophecy proclaiming him future king, Macbeth became worried with the initial prospect...

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Uploaded by:   Joe_Man500

Date:   10/18/2002

Category:   Macbeth

Length:   4 pages (901 words)

Views:   6845

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