Macbeth – Fate or Free Choice?In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Macbeth’s destiny is determined by the choices he makes. The first hint to the reader of Macbeth’s choices comes as a warning from Banquo to Macbeth about believing the witches, or Weird Sisters. Once Macbeth starts to believe the witches, this belief facilitates his decisions to take certain actions. Macbeth’s choice to believe the witches also gives them control over him, which further illustrates how Macbeth’s destiny is fated by his choice to believe them. Throughout the play Macbeth has opportunities to stop believing in the witches, thereby choosing actions that might avoid a harmful fate.
It is Macbeth’s free choice to believe the witches or not, and it is this choice and his resulting actions that leads to his fate.Banquo realizes how cunning, crafty and clever the witches really are after Macbeth becomes Thane of Cawdor. He cautions Macbeth by saying:But tis strange.And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,The instruments of darkness tell us truths,Win us with honest trifles, to betray’sIn deepest consequence. – (1.3.134-138)Banquo is saying that it is strange how “the instruments of darkness,” (1.
3.136) the witches, can lead Macbeth to harm by tricking him. They do this by telling Macbeth a small trifle – that he will become Thane of Cawdor.
While this comes true, it is actually a result of Macbeth’s acts of loyalty to the king. Once this first prophecy of the witches proves true, Macbeth believes that all the other prophecies will follow, and he acts accordingly. Macbeth’s belief in the witches’ foresight leads him to actions of “deepest consequences” (1.3.138). Banquo’s idea examines how Macbeth’s one choice to believe the Weird Sisters fates the rest of his actions.
Ignoring Banquo’s warning, Macbeth begins to believe the witches and starts his fated actions. As Macbeth gains power and believes he is fated to gain greater power, he is drawn to a life of deceit and murder. It is Macbeth’s hand which acts, although these actions are all driven by the clever witches because they know how he would react once he believes them. The one choice to have faith in the witches triggers the true fate of Macbeth.
Macbeth’s choice to believe in the Weird Sisters also gives the witches control. The reader can see this when Macbeth says, “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me / without my stir.” (1.3.157-9) Macbeth believes he might become king by chance, rather than as a result of any of his own actions.
This is also evident when Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth “I will tomorrow/ (And betimes I will) to the Weird Sisters. /more shall they speak, for now I am bent to know”. This second trip to see the witches shows his dependence on them, which gives them the control. Macbeth has opportunities to stop believing the Weird Sisters and thereby avoid a bad fate. The major opening for him to break loose from their control is when he says, For mine own good,All causes shall give way.
I am in bloodStepped in so far that, should I wade no more,Returning were as tedious to go o’er. (3.4.167-170)Macbeth is saying that to go back is as hard as to go forward and he will take it into his own hands for his sake. He says how “all causes shall give way” (3.
4.168) meaning that the actions the witches have predicted will give way to his own choice to go forward. Through Macbeth, Shakespeare shows us how one’s journey and fate are one’s own choices. Macbeth becomes Thane of Cawdor as a result of his own valiant actions, but he believes it was caused by the prophecy of the witches. This faith in the witches leads him to commit treacherous acts that lead him to the crown but bring him harm.
As Lady Macbeth states, “What’s done cannot be undone” (5.1.71), suggesting one’s destiny will always be set by the choices one makes and the actions one takes.Work CitedShakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Barbara A.
Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992.