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Macbeth: Witches Influence on Macbeth's Decisions
In the Shakespearean play, "Macbeth," the witches influence on how Macbeth made
his decisions played a crucial part in contributing to his eventual destruction.
The witches were trying to create chaos by prophesying to Macbeth in order to
get him to act. They planted the seed of evil in Macbeth's head that grew to
dominate his mind. But it was Macbeth who made the choices that determined his
fate. He was not forced to kill Duncan nor any of his other victims. But after
he murdered Duncan, Macbeth lost his sanity. The witches were easily able to
control his mind. They made him believe that he was invincible, and then he
willingly continued to fight when he knew that it would mean his doom. Macbeth's
downfall was planned by the weird sisters, but it was Macbeth's own free will
that lead him to it.
The three witches called the weird sisters are the root of the problem that is
the subject for this story. The weird sisters are creators of chaos by nature.
They associate with evil spirits and obey them, and they are followers of the
evil goddess, Hecate. In the play the witches, with their spells, plan the
downfall of Macbeth. They cannot directly harm him themselves, so they tell
Macbeth predictions for his possible future, in order to make him act on them.
The witches tell Macbeth that he will become the thane of Cawdor and then king
of Scotland. They poison his mind with these prophesies, making him greedy and
bringing out the evil qualities in his soul. When the first of the promises is
proven authentic, Macbeth then considers the idea of murdering Duncan for the
first time. This is his first step on the journey to his demise, as the witches
The three witches' plan succeeded, they had aroused the greed in Macbeth,
allowing him to make the most important choice of the play - to kill Duncan.
Macbeth does not easily make this decision. In fact, at first he decides against
it, but, with the knowledge that he could be king, he could not help himself
from considering it. After constant persuasion from Lady Macbeth, she and
Macbeth finally made their decision. Lady Macbeth would load Duncan's attendants
with liquor, and then, on Lady Macbeth's signal, Macbeth would creep into
Duncan's chamber and slay him with his servant's weapons. This act surges
Macbeth forward on the direct path to his destruction. Afterwards, when Duncan
is discovered dead, Macbeth kills again when he murders the servants who were
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guarding Duncan. Claiming he acted in rage Macbeth kills the servants so that
they cannot bear witness against him. Macbeth's greed had taken control of him
and he could not turn back. It only took the one idea embedded into Macbeth's
head to lead him toward corruption.
After Macbeth grows more sinful and overpowered with greed he does not make any
real attempt to change, and his conscious is bothered by this. Slowly Macbeth
loses grasp of his sanity and self-control. Being consumed with power, Macbeth
lets nothing stand in the way of his reign, because his reign is all that he has
left now. Macbeth's malevolence and deceptiveness are shown further when he
becomes so obsessed with the witches prophesies to his friend, Banquo, that he
decides to hire two men to kill him and his son. It is not long before Macbeth's
own ruthlessness begins to disturb him, greatly. He suffers from troubled sleep,
nightmares and loss of appetite, and he is going insane. At a banquet in his
castle Macbeth envisions Banquo's ghost and gives a terrified reaction in front
of his guests. Also because Macduff does not attend the banquet and flees to
England, Macbeth, in anger, decides to have his family murdered. Later in the
play Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth, "I am in blood / Stepp'd in so far, that,
should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er." This remark
paints the image of Macbeth swimming in a sea of blood, having proceeded so far
that it is easier to continue than to go back. Macbeth has lost hope. With
regret, he feels that he is past the point of no return, he has sinned so
brutally and severely that he is unable to atone for it.
Now that the witches have succeeded in bringing out Macbeth's evil qualities,
they are ready to finish their plot and make sure that Macbeth follows his
destiny to his downfall. With Hecate's guidance, the witches plan to lead
Macbeth to his death by making him feel overconfident. Macbeth goes to seek the
witches in a dark cave. When he finds them, they present him with three
apparitions. The first apparition appears as an armed head that says, "Macbeth!
Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff; / Beware the thane of Fife." The second
apparition is a bloody child that tells Macbeth, "Be bloody, bold, and resolute;
laugh to scorn / The power of man, for none born of woman / Shall harm Macbeth."
Finally the third apparition, in the form of a child with a crown on his head,
holding a tree, tells Macbeth that he "Shall never vanquished be until Great
Birnam wood to high Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him." Macbeth now feels
assured that he cannot be killed because he assumes that all people are born of
a woman, and it is impossible for a forest to move. He could never have guessed
that the apparitions meant that Macduff did not have a natural birth and that
the English would use trees as camouflage. This false confidence Macbeth was
given was extremely important to allow him to make his final decisions that
resulted in his defeat.
The apparitions made an effect on Macbeth and he acts foolishly because of them.
When he is told that Macduff has fled to England, Macbeth, in fury, orders his
family murdered. This only strengthens Macduff's desire to confront and kill
Macbeth. When Macbeth finally realizes that he has been deceived by the witches
his overconfidence turns into arrogance. A messenger reports to Macbeth that it
appears that Birnam Wood is moving toward Dunsinane, as the apparitions had
warned Macbeth it would. But Macbeth now is too determined to fight than to
retreat, so he orders his soldiers to attack. On the battlefield he feels
trapped. But at the same time however, he clings to the prophesy that he cannot
by killed by anyone born of a woman. When Macbeth is finally confronted by
Macduff, Macduff explains that he was delivered by caesarian section and thus,
technically, not born. Now Macbeth fully understands the deception of the
witches and realizes that he destined to die here. But when he is given the
chance to live he does not take it, he would rather die than live in shame. By
free will, despite knowing that he would probably die, Macbeth fights Macduff,
and is slain.
It was Macbeth's free will, with the influence of the witches prophesies that
determined his destiny. Macbeth chose to kill Duncan, chose to kill his servants,
Banquo, and Macduff's family, and chose to fight to his death. And he was not
forced to do so, he took each step on the path to his destruction by choice.
Even though Macbeth seemed to have a predetermined fate, I don't think that he
was bound to it. I think he could have chosen to break away from the direction
he was heading at anytime, but just simply did not have the willpower.