Shakespeare was wont to employ the supernatural force of fate throughout his tragic play Macbeth. Let us examine in this essay what we mean by the above statement.
In Everybody's Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies, Maynard Mack explains that the witches are associated with fate:
Except in one phrase (I.3.6) and in the stage directions, the play always refers to the witches as weyard - or weyward - sisters. Both spellings are variations of weird, which in Shakespeare's time did not mean "freakish," but "fateful" - having to do with the determination of destinies. Shakespeare had met with such creatures in Holinshed, who regularly refers to the supernatural agents with whom Macbeth has dealings as "the three sisters," or "the three weird sisters," i.e., the three Fates. (185)
L.C. Knights in the essay "Macbeth" explains the place of fate in the decline of Macbeth:
"One feels," says W.C. Curry, "that in proportion as the good in him diminishes, his liberty of free choice is determined more and more by evil inclination and that he cannot choose the better course. Hence we speak of destiny or fate, as if it were some external force or moral order, compelling him against his will to certain destruction." Most readers have felt that after the initial crime there is something compulsive in Macbeth's murders; and at the end, for all his "valiant fury," he is certainly not a free agent. He is like a bear tied to a stake, he says; but it is not only the besieging army that hems him in; he is imprisoned in the world he has made. (102)
In Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, Northrop Frye stresses the connection between the witches and fate:
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...ey, A.C. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare's Four Giants. Rindge, NH: Richard R. Smith Publisher, Inc., 1957.
Coursen, H. R. Macbeth: a Guide to the Play. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1997.
Frye, Northrop. Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1967.
Knights, L.C. "Macbeth." Shakespeare: The Tragedies. A Collectiion of Critical Essays. Alfred Harbage, ed. Englewwod Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964.
Mack, Maynard. Everybody's Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. http://chemicool.com/Shakespeare/macbeth/full.html, no lin.
Wilson, H. S. On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1957.
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