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Fate vs. Free Will 11th of January 2013 Throughout the ages, it has been believed that fate has the power to forge one’s destiny. By some uncontrollable force, the outcome of a person’s choices is controlled by the way in which they are destined to occur. On the other hand though, some believe these choices can defy fate and that fate only manipulates one’s mind into choosing their own path. One question that seemed to pop into my head through out this play was whether individuals were victims of fate or their I own choices, or if each aspect plays a significant part in determining their destiny.
In the play Macbeth, William Shakespeare plays 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. However, at the beginning of the play, Macbeth is portrayed as a good man. Yet he decides to commit, not one or to two, but a series of bad actions that only he had the power to control. Fate, a powerful source thought to control all events, even a person’s destiny. If fate were to be real, then the outcome of a person’s (Macbeth’s) life would be inevitable.
If the concept of fate was true, from the moment of birth 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? ” In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, there is a constant looming of these two questions. Macbeth had been given all these prophecies, that all seemed to come true, but he also played a big role in those because of the decisions he made.
Macbeth is in no way under a spell or curse; he chose to create a path of evil for himself. The ability for Macbeth to choose his own fate appeared as soon as he decided to stop and listen to the witches. He 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. ” (Act I, scene i, line 70). Before Macbeth actually came upon the witches, he was clueless to what would happen in the nearby future. Yet after his encounter with the witches, his mind was going back and forth trying to figure out how he should act upon the prophecy of becoming king!
It was by then 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. Meaning that 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 to opt for evil instead of good. “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir. ” (Act 1. Scene iii. Line 10).
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 “stir” or 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. (Act 1. Scene iv. Line 4)” 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 take action or, “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. Now let’s take a step back and think: Was Macbeth’s downfall caused by fate or free will? One way of looking 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. (1. 3. 4) They also knew the exact circumstances of Macbeth’s downfall (4. 1. 8), which could suggest that Macbeth had no control over his own fate. But on the other hand, in the play we clearly saw Macbeth planning the murders, and then make his own choices and put his plans into action. And this is of course; his own free will. He decides it. I for one believe that it was hiss 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 loose whatever part of is sanity that was left.
A quote that I found to back 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 here it really shows us that Macbeth was not controlled by his fate, but by his free will. I say this because, the witches never really said anything to Macbeth about murdering Duncan, or Banquo in order to make the prediction come true, Macbeth did thought that all by himself.
I think that it 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. 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. ” I think that this quote is very important because this is where 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 stated, 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 for somewhere to stir up conflict and saw the perfect opportunity with Macbeth. I mean after all they are withes, stirring up trouble comes in the job description. The witches 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 (as we had heard he was) then maybe he would have taken the time to actually consider that what they were saying was meaningless. Instead, he let the prophecy get into his head and let it give a push to the ‘already present’ ambition he had for power. To wrap up this essay, I would like to answer the 2 questions that had been hanging around in my head: Was Macbeth really a victim of fate? And did the choices he made have some sort f impact on the outcome of his destiny? 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 previously stated, the witches had only planted the idea into his head because stirring up trouble was their nature, but that does not mean it meant anything! Macbeth always had tat little piece of ambition inside of him, the one in which he dreamt of being king and Thane of Cawdor, because back in the Elizabethan times titles were important! I think that Macbeth used the prophecy to take the guilt away from the ambition he was feeling.
He used it to guide himself, but no part of it had to do with fate! It was all Macbeth’s free will. The witches gave him something to think of as 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. Every time he killed someone, he did it because he thought that he had to kill those that stood in the way of his fate. All the choices Macbeth made impacted his future, and no, it was not because of fate.
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It was because Macbeth had a spark of ambition, which was rubbed against a prophesised fate that then turned into a huge disaster. Overall, 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. I do believe that after a while Macbeth started to loose his mind and forget what he was doing in the first place. I think that the theme of Fate vs. Reality is crucial in this play, because it really gives us an understandidng to Macbeth and his personality.
Author: Cari Minns
Macbeth: Fate vs. Free Will
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The tragedy of Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare in the 1600s, continues to be one of Shakespeare’s darkest, most powerful tragedies. The play, set in Scotland, depicts the rise and fall of King Macbeth. It explores whether Macbeth was in charge of his own destiny in his quest for power, or under the control of others surrounding him. The play examines many themes, especially those concerning evil. A prominent theme in Macbeth is fate vs freewill. Is it fate, or free will which determines the rise and fall of Macbeth? The rise of Macbeth begins with him running into three witches on his way home from a battle. The witches prophesised that he would become King. This is one of the factors that contributed to Macbeth’s belief that he should become King. Another factor was his wife, Lady Macbeth, encouraging him to fulfil the prophecy right away by killing the current king, King Duncan. Although these factors may have contributed to Macbeth’s actions, he remained capable of making his own choices. The witches, or the weird sisters, in Macbeth represent fate.
There are several variations on how weird is spelt throughout the play’s stage directions, such as weyard, and wayward. In Shakespeare’s time, this meant fate, or fateful. In the visual representation, Macbeth is depicted in the centre with a witch whispering into his left ear, and Lady Macbeth whispering into his right ear. This symbolises how Macbeth was being treated like a puppet by both the witches, and by Lady Macbeth. It shows how Macbeth was influenced by their words, although he could have chosen to ignore them and make his own decisions. The witches represent fate, and Lady Macbeth a controlling influence in his life. These 2 people are included in the visual representation because they are the main influences in the tragedy of Macbeth. Macbeth, in the middle, represents the way in which Lady Macbeth and the witches are influencing him. Macbeth’s serious expression is representative of how he feels in Act 1, Scene 3, where he is torn between fate, and his own free will. Dark colours are used to provide an image of the play – it is not bright and happy. It is a dark tragedy.
Macbeth states in Act 1, Scene 3, “present fears are less than horrible imaginings, my thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man that function, is smothered in surmise, and nothing is, but what is not.” In this scene, he is trying to make sense of his thoughts – Shakespeare represents this through soliloquy. He is talking about how Duncan’s murder is just a fantasy right now. This is before Lady Macbeth can even bring up the murder. This quote is shown in the visual representation, as it shows Macbeth is thinking about murder based on what the witches said, even before the influence of Lady Macbeth. Neither the witches, nor Lady Macbeth, could force Macbeth to kill Duncan. Macbeth had thoughts of murder before talking to Lady Macbeth, showing that the witches awakened his ambition to become king. They could only use their words to manipulate him, this is indicated in the visual, through the quotes which relate to their manipulation of Macbeth.
“All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” – This quote, from one of the witches represents the start of Macbeth’s rise to power – this triggers Macbeth to think about killing King Duncan. This is represented in the visual representation as it is a key quote from the witches. In Act 1, the witches appear in front of Macbeth and Banquo, the best friend of Macbeth. They represent fate, although it is unclear if they really can control Macbeth’s fate, or have any powers at all. They make three predictions for Macbeth, one that that he will be Thane of Cawdor, secondly that he will be King, and thirdly that Banquo’s sons will become King. When Macbeth reflects on the predictions, he starts to feel that he may need to kill King Duncan to become King, but hopes it will come about by fate or chance instead. The predictions shown in the visual representation are an example of Macbeth reflecting upon them. “Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, and make my seated heart knock at my ribs” This was said before he murdered King Duncan, and shows the guilt he was feeling for even thinking about murder. If it was his fate to kill, he would not have felt so uncomfortable about it.
This is a direct example of Macbeth’s free will, and is represented in the visual representation with the out of order quotes, and Macbeth’s unfixed hair. The quotes placed around the visual representation show all the words that may have been echoing around his head, influencing him and pressuring him. The words from others helped contribute to Macbeth’s madness. “If chance will have me King, why chance may crown me, without my stir.” – Macbeth is unsure about killing King Duncan, for good reason – the witches never fated him to kill Duncan. This is an example of his free will. It is hard for Macbeth to decide what he wants to do with all of the pressure, although he does not have to succumb to it. The witches never stated that Macbeth would need to kill King Duncan to become king, that idea was completely his own. Macbeth states in the above quote from the play that if it really is fate, it will come about by chance. From the beginning, Macbeth kept his own free will, even though he was influenced by others. After learning of the witches’ prophecies, Macbeth makes the mistake of writing a letter to Lady Macbeth, telling her about the encounter with the witches, in detail.
Lady Macbeth becomes excited, about being Queen, about having power. She wants Duncan dead, so she can be queen. In many ways Lady Macbeth is more power hungry than Macbeth. In Act 1, scene 7, she murmurs to herself that she knows Macbeth is ambitious, and wants power, but fears that he is too full of ‘the milk of human kindness’ to kill Duncan and become King. She begs to be ‘unsexed’ so she can do it herself, but knows that it will not happen. “…Unsex me here! And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty!” She wishes to lose her feminine characteristics, so that she can kill King Duncan. It seems that Lady Macbeth is more influenced by the witches’ prophecies than Macbeth is. She decides to convince Macbeth to seize the crown. She cannot fate Macbeth to kill the king, but she can encourage his free will, and pressure him into it. She bullies him into it, calling him a coward, and telling him that he is less of a man.
In many ways, Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth, she influences his decision in a dramatic way, and contributes to Macbeth’s rise, and ultimate fall, as King. The dark colours used in the visual representation show that Macbeth’s morals, and values disappeared, thus making his mind a dark place. “And to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man” “What beast was’t then? That made you break this enterprise to me?” These quotes are represented in the visual representation as they represent the pressure Lady Macbeth is putting onto Macbeth. She appeals to his conscience by telling him that he promised her that he would be King, and now he’s broken that promise. Although the witches never told Macbeth that he had to kill Duncan to become King, Lady Macbeth encourages this idea, and pressures Macbeth into it. Macbeth becomes convinced that he should kill King Duncan, after Lady Macbeth assures him that he cannot fail, because Duncan is asleep. Lady Macbeth may have bullied Macbeth into killing King Duncan, but she cannot be blamed for the rise and fall of Macbeth.
He knows what the consequences of his actions will be, but does it anyway, out of his own free will. Macbeth succumbs to the pressure, and influence from Lady Macbeth and the witches. He loses himself momentarily. Macbeth murders King Duncan with a dagger in Act 1, Scene 8. After the murder, we see that Macbeth has a conscience. He expresses guilt and stress about his actions. If he was under the control of fate, he would not feel such guilt as he would know his actions were not of his own making. It is clear that Macbeth realises his actions were made from his own free will. Macbeth allows influences of evil into his life. The witches, and Lady Macbeth push Macbeth towards murder.. The witches tell Macbeth 3 things, he will be thane of Glamis, and Cawdor, and he will be King. The prediction that Macbeth would be thane of Cawdor is true, leading Macbeth to believe he will become King. The witches do suggest that he will become king, but it is Macbeth who produces the idea of murder. The witches never told him that he must kill to become King, or have power.
This is shown in the visual representation through the presence of a witch – and Lady Macbeth. Quotes are included to provide an example of their pressure/influence on Macbeth. The thought of murder cannot be blamed on the witches, or Lady Macbeth, even though she encouraged it. It was Macbeth who first thought of murdering King Duncan, thus proving that the murder was as a result of his own free will. Although Macbeth is stricken with guilt after murdering Duncan, he does not learn from his mistake. He continues, hiring two murderers to kill Fleance and Banquo, proving that Macbeth is led by his own free will. Was Macbeth a victim of fate? Or did he fall under the pressure of his wife, Lady Macbeth? It is possible that Macbeth already had murderous ambitions, but the witches awakened it. The witches did not instruct Macbeth to murder king Duncan, but motivated him by letting him believe his fate was sealed. Macbeth succumbs to pressure from Lady Macbeth, but his actions were all of his own free will.