Macbeth: Destiny of Each Character is Pre-determined
In the play Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, each characters
destiny seems to be predetermined. This raises the ultimate question: who,
or what, controls fate?
Existentialism is the belief that each person defines their future by
their decided actions: that the future has not yet been written.
Fatalism is the belief that the outcome of all events is preordained, and
therefore, unalterable. Throughout Macbeth
, the character Macbeth
many decisions which clearly affect his future, but are they truly
decisions? Or, are his decisions examples of fatalism, where another force
is guiding his actions to their predetermined conclusion?
Many of the characters, events, and much of the imagery in Macbeth
indicates that fate plays a prominant role in advancing the plot. The
characters most easily identified with having supernatural powers are,
obviously, the three witches.
The Witches' ability to see into the future is demonstrated when Macbeth
becomes thane of Cawdor. The line, "What? Can the devil speak true?"
showes Banquo's surprise at the realization of the prophecy.
But, would the Witches' prophecy of Macbeth's royal promotion have come
true had they not made Macbeth aware of the possibility? There was no
reason to warn Macbeth of the fate in store for him, since it is most
likely impossible for a person to alter their destiny
. It is quite
possible that the witches have no real power at all, beyond that of
suggestion. They may have only planted the idea within Macbeth, feeding
off his already present ambition. Perhaps the only true controlling power
comes from Lady Macbeth's uncontrollable greed.
Once Lady Macbeth had learned of the witches' prophecy, she immediately
concluded that Macbeth would not, with his present persona, be able to
attain that which fate had bestowed upon him.
"...Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear
And chastise with valor of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
To have thee crowned withal."
Lady Macbeth believed that it was her duty to induce Macbeth to carry
out the necessary deed (Duncan's murder) to fulfil the prophecy. However,
if Lady Macbeth had not influenced him, it is doubtful that Macbeth would
have taken any action towards his Royal future.
This substantiates the idea that the strength of the witches' words lies
in the power of suggestion. Although Lady Macbeth stated her belief in
Fate, she felt compelled to help it along. During the banquet, Macbeth
realized that the path of his life was coming to a "fork in the road", and
that he must choose the direction he will take. Lady Macbeth saw that
Macbeth was unsure, and took it upon herself to help him decide.
"When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man."
"...screw your courage to the sticking place,"
In the end however, it was Macbeth's decision to murder Duncan. Just as
he chose to kill the grooms. The Witches' prophecy for Banquo, (that he
would be the father of many kings) also contributed to Macbeth's decision
to order the murder of Banquo and fleance.
But, the Witches' role did not end there. Macbeth returned to question
them further. The three apparitions, conjured by the Witches, each told
Macbeth more about the fate which was in store for him.
"1. Appar. Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware
Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough."
"2. Appar. Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn the pow'r
of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.
"3. Appar. Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam
Wood to High Dunsinane Hill shall come against him."
The first and second prophesies could actually be combined. It is the
fate of Macbeth to be killed by Macduff, just as Macduff was destined from
birth to kill Macbeth. Malcolm's decision to use the trees of Birnam to
hide his army's number was another action which was preordained.
Macbeth's decision to send assasins to murder Macduff, as well as his
family and servants, is clearly a result of his fear due to the words of
the first apparition. Though the second apparition assures him that he
cannot be killed by anyone born of a woman, it was Macbeth's choice to
play it safe.
"But yet I'll make assurance double sure
And take a bond of fate. Thou shalt not live!"
In conclusion, it is evident that shakespeare wanted Fate to play a
prominent role in the play, without overpowering a man's ability to make
his own decisions. However it is not clear as to wheather the characters
had control over their own fate. So, if there is, a master plan which all
existance must adhere to, then even something as simple as this essay is
governed by it, and with this last sentence, another Fate is sealed.