Fate Vs. Free Will in Shakespeare's MacBeth.

Essay by Scottish365High School, 12th gradeA+, August 2003

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Fate versus Free Will

William Shakespeare's Macbeth is a tragic play which details the rise and fall of King Macbeth of Scotland. The tragic downfall of the hero Macbeth begins with the encounter between him and three witches who prophecy his rise to the throne, his descent into tyranny and his ultimate demise. Some may consider the fulfillment of these witches' predictions as a clear sign that Macbeth is led by fate, destined to do as the weird sisters foretell. However the witches' interactions with Macbeth, his own self-doubt and conflicting thought and his self-realizing ambition show that it is free-will - and not fate - that determined the course of Shakespeare's play.

While some, Bloom included, hold to the belief that the witches' predictions lead to Macbeth's fate, the witches themselves cannot be relied upon as accurate oracles. Instead, they make logical assumptions as to the natural course of politics and make the most of their limited abilities to ensure that their predictions come to pass.

This is first seen after the witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo, upon learning of the previous thane's fate from the messenger, both marveled at the witches' apparent ability of prophecy, even though Macbeth had already been named Thane of Cawdor. This influences the two men into believing that their other prophecies will come to pass. This, in turn, spurred Macbeth to action, which caused him to fulfill - through his own free will, though influenced by the witches' suggestions of a possible kingship - his own predictions. The witches themselves possess no real power to ensure that their predictions come to pass. This is seen during the witches' conversation, as the first witch relates the tale of the sailor whose boat she could not directly destroy, but...