Macbeth: Predestination or Free Will?

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When reading William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, it seems that Macbeth was predestined to do the terrible deeds that he did. However, there is also a valid argument that Macbeth exercised his free will and chose to do those things on his own. This discussion leads into many different topics, but it relates most to spirituality. The concept of free will and how it relates to Macbeth and our present lives yields a relevant and interesting topic for further discussion.

The first argument for Macbeth being predestined arises in the first Act when the witches called themselves the “weird” sisters: “The weird sisters hand in hand” (I.iii. line 32). At the time of Macbeth’s writing, weird did not mean strange or unusual as it does today. Weird was derived from the Old English word wyrd, meaning fate.1 Essentially, the witches were calling themselves the “fate” sisters. As defined by Merriam-Webster, fate is “an inevitable and often adverse outcome, condition, or end.” 2 Based on this definition, the women of fate appear to have either been controlling the way history played out, or they had the ability to see what was going to happen. Either way, Macbeth had no control over his life so he was basically a pawn on a bloody chess board moving about under the control of “fate.”

As Macbeth progressed further into his downfall and more of the witches’ prophecies came true, Macbeth started to believe that their statements could not be false. “The spirits that know/ All mortal consequences...” (V.iii. lines 4-5). This fact is reiterated when Macbeth drew all of his confidence from those prophecies near the end of the play: “But swords I smile at, weapons laugh to scorn,/ Brandished by man that’s of a woman born.” (V.vii. lines 12-13). (In ...

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...s in the context of Macbeth, but once these beliefs are placed into the realm of the real world, there is a lot more room for argument. Things in real life are less certain and there are many variables that can affect a person’s opinion on this matter. Ultimately, it comes down to a personal decision that everyone exercises their freedom of choice on to establish what they believe.

Works Cited

1. Online Etymology Dictionary. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. .

2. "Fate - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary." Merriam-Webster Online. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. .

3. Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Elements of Literature [Gr. 12]. Literature of Britain with World Classics. Austin [Tex.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2000. 301-82. Print.

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