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Sealed fate

In the play Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare,

each characters destiny seems to be predetermined. This

raises the ultimate question: who, or what, controls fate?

Existentialism is the belief that each person defines

their future by their decided actions: that the future has

not yet been written. Fatalism is the belief that the

outcome of all events is preordained, and therefore,

unalterable. Throughout Macbeth, the character Macbeth

makes many decisions which clearly affect his future, but

are they truly decisions? Or, are his decisions

examples of fatalism, where another force is guiding his

actions to their predetermined conclusion?

Many of the characters, events, and much of the

imagery in Macbeth indicates that fate plays a prominant

role in advancing the plot. The characters most easily

identified with having supernatural powers are, obviously,

the three witches.

The Witches' ability to see into the future is

demonstrated when Macbeth becomes thane of Cawdor. The

line, "What? Can the devil speak true?" showes Banquo's

surprise at the realization of the prophecy.

But, would the Witches' prophecy of Macbeth's royal

promotion have come true had they not made Macbeth aware of

the possibility? There was no reason to warn Macbeth of the

fate in store for him, since it is most likely impossible

for a person to alter their destiny. It is quite possible

that the witches have no real power at all, beyond that of

suggestion. They may have only planted the idea within

Macbeth, feeding off his already present ambition. Perhaps

the only true controlling power comes from Lady Macbeth's

uncontrollable greed.

Once Lady Macbeth had learned of the witches'

prophecy, she immediately concluded that Macbeth would not,

with his present persona, be able to attain that which fate

had bestowed upon him.

"...Hie thee hither,

That I may pour my spirits in thine ear

And chastise with valor of my tongue

All that impedes thee from the golden round

Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem

To have thee crowned withal."

Lady Macbeth believed that it was her duty to induce

Macbeth to carry out the necessary deed (Duncan's murder) to

fulfil the prophecy. However, if Lady Macbeth had not

influenced him, it is doubtful that Macbeth would have taken

any action towards his Royal future.

This substantiates the idea that the strength of the

witches' words lies in the power of suggestion. Although

Lady Macbeth stated her belief in Fate, she felt compelled

to help it along. During the banquet, Macbeth realized that

the path of his life was coming to a "fork in the road", and

that he must choose the direction he will take. Lady

Macbeth saw that Macbeth was unsure, and took it upon

herself to help him decide.

"When you durst do it, then you were a man;

And to be more than what you were, you would

Be so much more the man."

and, later,

"...screw your courage to the sticking place,"

In the end however, it was Macbeth's decision to

murder Duncan. Just as he chose to kill the grooms. The

Witches' prophecy for Banquo, (that he would be the father

of many kings) also contributed to Macbeth's decision to

order the murder of Banquo and fleance.

But, the Witches' role did not end there. Macbeth

returned to question them further. The three apparitions,

conjured by the Witches, each told Macbeth more about the

fate which was in store for him.

"1. Appar. Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware

Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough."

"2. Appar. Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn the pow'r of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth."

"3. Appar. Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to High Dunsinane Hill shall come against him."

The first and second prophesies could actually be

combined. It is the fate of Macbeth to be killed by

Macduff, just as Macduff was destined from birth to kill

Macbeth. Malcolm's decision to use the trees of Birnam to

hide his army's number was another action which was


Macbeth's decision to send assasins to murder Macduff,

as well as his family and servants, is clearly a result of

his fear due to the words of the first apparition. Though

the second apparition assures him that he cannot be killed

by anyone born of a woman, it was Macbeth's choice to play

it safe.

"But yet I'll make assurance double sure

And take a bond of fate. Thou shalt not live!"

In conclusion, it is evident that shakespeare wanted

Fate to play a prominent role in the play, without

overpowering a man's ability to make his own decisions.

However it is not clear as to wheather the characters had

control over their own fate. So, if there is, a master plan

which all existance must adhere to, then even something as

simple as this essay is governed by it, and with this last

sentence, another Fate is sealed.


Source: Essay UK -

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