A Discussion on Whether Macbeth Was Lead by Fate or Free Will in the Play Macbeth by William Shakespeare
There is a lingering question that hangs around the play and readers minds when they read Macbeth. Was it fate that made him become a murderer? Or was it his own free will that drove him into madness that made him kill the other characters?
The witches play a major role in tricking and deceiving Macbeth to become king. One of the key sections of dialogue happens between Macbeth and the witches in the first act. “First Witch All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! Second Witch: All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! Third Witch: All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” (act i, scene iii, 48-50) This quote can be interpreted in many ways. I think the witches planted the idea of him becoming king in his head. Thus, making his ambition to become a ruler take over and this would lead him to do rash things.
Another example of the witches affecting Macbeth’s decisions is when he goes back to them and sees the apparitions. “THIRD APPARITION: Be lion-mettled, proud; and take no care Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are: Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him. Descends MACBETH: That will never be Who can impress the forest, bid the tree Unfix his earth- bound root? Sweet bodements! good! Rebellion’s head, rise never till the wood Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath To time and mortal custom.” (act iv, scene i, 90-100) The witches give Macbeth riddles to fluster Macbeth’s mind which sequentially affected his decisions about Macduff.
The one thing that gets the ball rolling on Macbeth’s obsession to appear to be a great king is Duncan’s death. Macbeth frantically says when he’s about to kill Duncan – “Is this a dagger which I see before me. The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain? I see thee yet, in form as palpable As this which now I draw. Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going; And such an instrument I was to use.” (act ii, scene i, 33-44)
Macbeth saw the dagger but it was his imagination. I don’t believe it was fate, but it was his own free will. He made himself imagine the dagger that led him into Duncan’s room and ultimately to his death. The last example of Macbeth’s ambition also has to do with Duncan. “The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap. For in my way it lies.
Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires: The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be, Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.” (act i, scene iv, 48-53) Macbeth says this because he realizes that Malcolm has been named the prince of Cumberland and is the heir to the throne. He says that he must “o’erleap” this situation, meaning he must pass his obstacles by murder.
Overall Macbeth’s free will drove him to seize the throne, rather than his own fate. The witches also influenced his decisions by leaving hints and riddles. Macbeth was consumed by his confusion and obsession which ultimately led to his demise.