Does Macbeth Have Free-Will? Essay

Does Macbeth Have Free-Will? Essay

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Throughout the story of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, Macbeth acts in a much despised manner: he becomes a murderer and later, when king of Scotland, a tyrant. Many who have read or seen the play are left wondering how a man’s whole approach to life can change; how Macbeth turned from the hero whom all adored, to the tyrant who was hated and ended up a lone man, fighting for his life.

Within the play, Macbeth is influenced by many: the witches; his wife, Lady Macbeth; possibly Hecate, Goddess of the Underworld; and his own desire to be crowned king. The question is: was he just influenced by them, and acted upon his own choice and free-will; or did they control him, forcing him to act against his wishes against his free will?

Firstly, there are the witches, who are first to give Macbeth the idea of kingship. When they are first met, they are gathered in a ‘desolate place’ during a ferocious storm. This alone creates tension, even before the witches speak, as many fear thunder and lightening; when the play was written, thunder was considered to be God showing his anger.

When speaking the witches say, in line 12,’Fair is foul, and foul if fair’, later in scene 3 Macbeth describes the day: ‘So foul and fair a day’. This repetition may illustrate a link between Macbeth and the witches: these are words not commonly used together as they are an oxymoron. However, in this case, there use could be considered just: a surprising coincidence. The witches may be saying that it is disgraceful to be fair to people, but perfectly reasonable to be foul to people, showing their lust for trouble making. Macbeth may have meant that the weather is foul, as we already know there is a storm, but it is a good and fair day, Scotland is free a...


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...to killing Duncan, it is he who first mentions murder. The witches can only predict, if act iii, scene 5 is not included, they offer Macbeth a path, but it id up to him whether or not to take it. As Kenneth Muir wrote, ‘Macbeth has not the predisposition to murder; he has merely an inordinate ambition that makes murder itself seem to be a lesser evil than failure to achieve the crown.’

Overall, Macbeth may not have had the idea to be king had the witches not prophesised it, but, as is the nature of a prophecy, it should happen of its own accord. Macbeth attempted to speed up his destiny as given by the witches. He chose to take control by force rather than letting it happen naturally. The witches just said he would be king, not that he had to do anything to achieve the crown: his ambition made him kill. Macbeth chose to kill; to have choice is to have free-will.

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