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The Role Of Fate And Free Will In Macbeth’s Tragedy

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Throughout time, it has been believed that fate has the power to forge one’s destiny. On the other hand though, I believe these choices can defy fate and that fate only manipulates one’s mind into choosing their own path. In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare messes around with the idea of fate, placing the destiny of Macbeth before him, yet allowing his own ambitions and desires to drive him insane in order to achieve it. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is portrayed as a good man, but he decides to commit a series of bad actions that only he had the power to control.

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Fate is a powerful source thought to control all events, like a person’s destiny. If fate was real, then the outcome of a person’s life would be inevitable. If fate was true, from the point right when you are born, your life would have already been planned out and you are helpless to change it. The questions that seemed to, and still does, taunt me was “Was Macbeth really a victim of fate?” and “Did the choices he made have some sort of impact on the outcome of his destiny?” Macbeth was given all these prophecies, that all came true, but Macbeth also had a big role in these prophecies because of the decisions he made. Macbeth chooses to create a path of evil for himself. He wasn’t able to choose his own fate because he decided to stop and listen to the witches. Macbeth showed us that what they were saying was important to him when in the first act he says, ‘Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more. ‘ Before Macbeth meets the witches, he had no clue to what would happen in the nearby future. After meeting with the witches, he was unsure of how he should act upon the prophecy of becoming king. It was right in that moment that the idea of fate had been planted into his head, and with such good title to come with it, why wouldn’t he want to believe his ‘fate’? Something that I found very interesting about the witches was that looking closely at line 24-25 when one of the witches says, ‘Though his bark cannot be lost, yet it shall be tempest-tossed. ‘ From what I seemed to understand, these lines seemed to really show the limitations to the witches’ powers, because they were basically saying that they could only make life rough for the clueless captain, but they could not kill him.

I think that this is really important to all the people who thought that the witches had ‘written out’ Macbeth’s fate because in the same way as the previous stated scene they can tempt Macbeth with predictions about his future, but they cannot make him choose evil. In this scene, one of the conflicts is obviously fate vs. free will! All the witches really did was find a way of stirring up evil, by tempting Macbeth into choosing evil instead of good. “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir. ” Here, Macbeth seems content to leave his future to ‘chance. ‘ If ‘chance’ will have him crowned king, then there’s no reason for Macbeth to lift a finger against King Duncan (or anyone else) in order to make things happen. “The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’er leap, for in my way it lies. Stars hide your fires; let not lights see my black and deep desires: the eye wink at the hand; yet let that be, which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. ” Back at the previous quote I had quoted, Macbeth seemed happy to sit back and let his fate unfold. But, once he learnt that King Duncan had named Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland and heir to the crown of Scotland, Macbeth decides that he must ‘overleap’ what now appears to block his path to the throne. He acknowledges that his desires are black and deep so it’s obvious that he’s decided to commit murder in order to make the witches’ prophesy come true.

Was Macbeth’s downfall caused by fate or free will? One way that you can look at this argument could be by saying: in the play, the outer forces could have controlled Macbeth. After all, the three witches prophesized that Macbeth would become king. Also, they knew the exact circumstances of Macbeth’s downfall, which could suggest that Macbeth had no control over his own fate. But on the other hand, in the play we saw Macbeth planning the murders, and then he made his own choices and put his plans into action. This is of course; his own free will. He decides it. I believe that it was his free will the whole time, that the witches fate started a spark in Macbeth’s ambitions, which caused him to go out of his mind and lose whatever part of his sanity that was left. Another quote which backs up my reasoning to this was when Macbeth says, “I am settled, and bend up each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Away, and mock the time with fairest show: false face must hide what the false heart doth know. ” I think in this quote it really shows us that Macbeth was not controlled by his fate, but by his free will. I say this as the witches never really said anything to Macbeth about murdering Duncan, or Banquo in order to make the prediction come true, Macbeth did that all by himself. This shows us that it wasn’t fate for Macbeth to get the throne, his own actions got him the throne in ways that the witches had not ever mentioned.

Again, I would like to go back to a passage I had previously quoted, ‘Though his bark cannot be lost, yet it shall be tempest-tossed. ‘ This quote is very important as here we are shown that the witches aren’t as powerful as though to be! All this time people thought that the witches had written out Macbeth’s fate, but none of them ever stopped to think of how powerful the witches truly were. As I had previously said, here the witches seem to be saying that they could not kill the sailor, but they could make life a living-hell for him. This shows that maybe the witches didn’t have any fate planned for Macbeth, they were just looking to stir up conflict and saw the perfect opportunity with Macbeth. They knew that Macbeth was an ambitious man, that all he really needed was to be given a little push! When the witches told Macbeth about their so called prophecy, but in reality all it really was what he wanted to hear. If Macbeth was a wise and noble man then maybe he would have taken the time to actually consider that what they were saying was meaningless. Instead, he just let the prophecy get into his head and let it give a push to the ‘already present’ ambition he had for power.

In conclusion, after looking over all the details from my essay, it became clear to me that Macbeth was not a victim of fate. Like I had stated before, the witches had only given him the idea because making trouble was their nature, but that does not mean it meant anything! Macbeth always had a piece of ambition inside of him, the one in which he dreamt of being king and Thane of Cawdor! Macbeth used the prophecy to take the guilt away from the ambition he was feeling. He used the prophecy to guide himself, but no part of it had to do with fate! It was all Macbeth’s free will. The witches only gave him something to think of for his future, but it was nothing set in concrete. Throughout the play, Macbeth kept building onto his fate, believing that fate was fate and that either way he couldn’t anything to stop it and change it. Every time he killed someone, he did it because he thought that it would lead to his fate. All the choices he made impacted his future and no it was not because of fate. Because Macbeth had a spark of ambition, which was combined against a prophesied fate that then turned him into a huge disaster. I believe that Macbeth was responsible for what happened during every second of his life, and that fate was not leading him to his destiny. The theme of Fate vs. Reality is crucial in this play, because it really gives us an understanding to Macbeth and his personality. </p>

10 October 2020

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