Macbeth and his Submission to Fate

Analyzing the way Macbeth reacts to the witches prophecies is ambiguous. There are a wide variety of lenses to analyze probably the most important question of the play. Do the witches really see into the future and see Macbeth as King, or are they trying to play some sort of mind trick on him to manipulate him?
Personally, I think Macbeth hears the witches prophecies and becomes brainwashed with the idea that fate is inescapable and he can do nothing to alter it; free will is destroyed in Macbeth’s eyes, and once the witches seem to have some validity to their claims, Shakespeare goes mad and believes he has no say in his fate.
In 1.3, Macbeth is still trying to grasp the fact that he will apparently become thane of Cawdor and king. He responds to Banquo and Angus’ optimistic outlook of the prophecies by stating, “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir” (1.3.144-145). Macbeth believes his future is set in stone, he cannot change a thing. He believes he will essentially have to do nothing, and fate will take care of everything and crown him as king.
Then, during the famous dagger scene, in which Macbeth arguably hallucinates the sight of a dagger, is the first time Fate shows itself to him and specifically tells him what to do and when to do it:
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.
He sees the dagger as a, “dagger of the mind,” as if fate has crawled into his brain and tells him, “this is how you’re going to do it. He seems to submit to the sword, and thus, his fate; the sword is an instrument I “was” to use, as if that is what was supposed to be.
Macbeth also sees fate as an aid, as if he essentially has to do nothing, because fate is fate, and nothing can change it. In 4.1, Macbeth speaks directly to fate and states, ” come, Fate, into the list, And champion me to the utterance!” In my opinion, this is when Shakespeare has totally submitted to fate. When he contemplated with Lady Macbeth if he should kill or not, he ponders whether he has free will or not; but in this scene, Macbeth has lost all sense of free will.

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One thought on “Macbeth and his Submission to Fate

  1. alexatirapelli

    I just commented on a semi-similar post, and I think that this is such an imaginative way to view the world of Macbeth. Thinking of the witches’ prophecies as a means of manipulation adds to their creepy and powerful characterizations. Does it also compromise their power as magical beings, though? It certainly makes sense with what we talked about in class, saying that the witches speak only in partial truths as they “predict the future”, because (going off of your thoughts) they are only prophesying what they WANT to happen and this therefore compromises their supernatural power and authority, although perhaps only for the reader. The personification of Fate is also interesting – it calls attention to the hyperbolic emphasis of a supreme fate or set future that Macbeth supposedly will have – but had he thought about the witches and their prophecies as lies, would any of the events have unfolded as they did?

    Reply

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