The conflict of Macbeth’s fate vs free will
|Topics:||Macbeth, Freedom, 📗 Book, 🧔 William Shakespeare|
Table of Contents
In William Shakespeare’s 17th century play “Macbeth”, the division of determined fate and free will carries out a crucial role as a key theme throughout the tragedy. On the one hand, pointing to the destiny determined at birth, possible fate may seem naturally beyond the control of mere mortals. On the other hand, free will is close to the fundamental idea that every event that happens to us is the result of some other action performed by our own choice. In contrast to the understanding based solely on fate as the leading driving force, Shakespeare, on the contrary, expresses free will at the heart of Macbeth’s decisions, thus showing fate is under the control of the actor.
Macbeth’s fate vs free will
To begin with, when the play starts with the predictive words of the witches, we realize that fate is the primary motive of the story, however, the eventual results are typically caused by a tragic series of personal decisions that coincide with the prophecies. For example, when Shakespeare points out that “The Witches are an enactment of the irrational” (2.3.17), he then demonstrates how even their fates are subordinate to the will of Macbeth, who makes his mind up. This is understandable from the behavior of Macbeth, who rationalizes everything he is told and arranges his actions by reacting to what is happening, not by blindly trusting his predetermined destiny. Shakespeare skillfully creates words of witches: “Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn, The power of man, for none of woman born, Shall harm Macbeth” (4.1.90-92). Each of these actions represents a choice to which the witches urge Macbeth, as evidenced by the imperative tone conveyed by the vivid verbs. If fate was genuinely the most significant element of the work, the witches would not need to insist on such treatment. Undoubtedly, the meaning ascribed to the verb “to be” indicates that the free will of man remains still a determining factor in his future.
In addition, Macbeth’s fall at the hands of Macduff is a similar point of acrimonious dispute between fate and free will. Foreshadowing this event, the witches address Macbeth in the second phantasm, “The power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” (4.1.91.). This was a crucial turning point in the tragedy, which aptly shows the superiority of free will in Macbeth’s murder of Duncan to become king. Although these events were described in the prophecy, the murder itself came as an unfortunate result of Macbeth carrying out his own plan. He could have ended up becoming king, even if he had done nothing, but the plot of Shakespeare’s play instead depicts a consistent path that successfully connects the original prophecy with its fulfillment. The perception of fate, in his opinion, may be just a coincidence. “All hail, Macbeth Hail to thee, thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth Hail to thee, thou shall be King hereafter!” (1.3.49). Duncan’s two sons run away to avoid being unjustly suspected of committing a crime they did not commit — the murder of their own father.
Ultimately, paying attention to Macbeth’s communication with Lady Macbeth reveals the sinister intentions that drive his every action. “I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none.” (1.7.50-52). From this interaction, we understand that Macbeth does not succumb to fate, but tries to achieve everything to bring his and his wife’s intentions to life. The way we perceive situations that happen to us or make decisions is influenced by our inner fears, the environment each of us lives in and expectations of our family. We all cultivate inner morals, values that we try to follow, thus we can see things in another way and make different decisions, just like Macbeth, who wanted to capture the crown and decided to kill so many innocent lives.
Macbeth’s choice to act on the prophecies given to him by the three wicked witches demonstrates that although characters are influenced by others, ultimately, their decisions are what they stick to and what most affect their lives. For example, at the heart of Shakespeare’s story, Macbeth’s murder of Duncan leads to his own death at the hands of the relentless Macduff. This is not cruel fate, but an apparent consequence that happened with Macbeth’s own choice. Fate, as Shakespeare shows, exists purely in a coincidence of circumstances, guided by much more influential decisions that a person is free to make.
- Shakespeare, W. (1992). Macbeth. Wordsworth Editions.
Offered for reference purposes only.