Relationship Between Fate And Free Will In Macbeth

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Bound by Fate, Pained by Free Will

For centuries, many people have debated and grappled with the idea of fate versus free will. Is a person’s life controlled by fate or is a person entirely responsible for their actions and subsequent consequences? American Professor Randy Pausch describes the relationship between fate and free will well when he writes, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the game”. In the tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, it appears as though Macbeth’s fate is predetermined from the beginning, however, it is his actions that determine how he reaches his destiny. Although Macbeth feels as though he falls victim to fate, the real reasons behind his pain are because of the choices he makes throughout
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The first time that this is evident over the course of Macbeth's journey to power is when he receives his first prophecy from The Witches. When Macbeth visits The Witches to receive his prophecy, they say to him, “All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter” (1.3.53). Upon hearing the prophecy, Macbeth immediately decides he must take action to fulfill his fate. Interestingly, the definition of fate is “something that unavoidably befalls a person” (dictionary.com). Despite hearing that he is destined to be king, Macbeth still plots King Duncan’s death so that he can receive the crown. This is evident when Macbeth says to himself, “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion / Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair” (1.3.144-145). Here, Macbeth is admitting that he is contemplating murdering King Duncan mere minutes following The Witches prophecy even though he knows it is wrong. English literature writer, Balázs Szigeti states, ‘“It is noteworthy that Macbeth immediately thinks about the murder on hearing the prophecy… Macbeth interprets the declaration ‘Thou shalt be king hereafter’ (1.3.53) into the future, as an imperative, and wants to fulfill the promise as an active agent” (Szigeti, 29). Although Macbeth hears…show more content…
This causes Macbeth to take action to try to ensure that he will not lose the crown to Banquo’s descendants. Unlike Macbeth killing Duncan to fulfill a prophecy, here, Macbeth is acting on the basis of trying to stop a prophecy from being fulfilled. The murderer’s end up killing Banquo but Fleance manages to escape, which means the prophecy may still come to pass. It is interesting that in spite of the actions Macbeth takes, it appears as though fate is what has kept Fleance alive. Had he died, none of Banquo’s descendants would have been able to be king one day. Famous Shakespearean writer A.C. Bradley states, “The tragic world is a world of action, and action is the translation of thought into reality. . . But what they achieve is not what they intended; it is terribly unlike it. . . They act freely, and yet their action binds them hand and foot” (Bradley, 42). Macbeth acts freely and willingly to plan the murders of Banquo and his son, but much like Bradley says, instead, he finds himself bound by fate. Fleance is fated to be king or to have descendants who will be king. Macbeth can attempt to murder him time and time again but it seems that fate has determined Fleance’s future and is what is keeping him alive. Whether Macbeth is attempting to fulfill his own prophecy or stop someone else’s from coming true, he voluntarily takes action rather than let fate lead

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