How can we say that Macbeth is a tragedy of fate?

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Macbeth was content being a good soldier for King Duncan. He fought side by side with his good friend Banquo. Macbeth did not seem to be overly ambitious until he met his fate--the witches. Macbeth becomes a victim of fate when he meets the witches. The witches begin to plant evil desires into Macbeth:

All hail, Macbeth! That shall be king hereafter!

Macbeth is startled by the news. He was not expecting such a report from the witches. Banquo recognizes that Macbeth is overcome with the report, even to the point of being afraid of it:

Good sir, why are you startled, and seem afraid of
Things that sound so beautiful? In the name of truth,
Are you fantastic beings or indeed what
You look like? You greet my noble partner
With current grace and great predictions
Of having nobility and of the hope to be king,
that he seems carried away as well.

Clearly, Macbeth is carried away by the shocking prophesy.

Before Macbeth meets the witches, he is on the battlefield fighting heroically. He is giving his best effort. The sergeant reports to King Duncan on what a glorious fight that Macbeth is fighting:

Because brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name,
Outshining fortune, with his brandished sword,
Which was steaming with blood in the hot use of it,
Like power’s hero,
Carved out his way through them until he faced Macdonwald;
And he never shook hands, said goodbye to him,
Until he cut him in half, from his navel to his chin,
And put Macdonwald’s head on top of our fort’s wall.

The sergeant continues to report that Macbeth and Banquo were as great warriors in the face of major conflict:

As sparrows are by eagles, or the hare is by the lion.
If I say truth, I must report they were as upset
As cannons overcharged with double cracks.
So they doubly re-doubled strokes upon the enemy.
Whether they meant to bathe in fresh, bleeding wounds,
Or create another Crucifixion scene,
I cannot tell.

No doubt, Macbeth and Banquo are content being soldiers, fighting for King Duncan. Truly, they are in support of King Duncan.

Then, Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches. The witches make promises of future glories to both Macbeth and Banquo. Fate is in the form of three witches. These witches plant evil desires in Macbeth. He begins to covet the throne from the moment.

As fate would have it, Macbeth shares the witches' evil prophesy with Lady Macbeth. Even when Macbeth had changed his mind on killing King Duncan, his fate is sealed because Lady Macbeth will not take no for an answer. Macbeth had decided to put aside the business of killing King Duncan:

We will proceed no further in this business.
He has recently honored me, and I now have the
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which I want to enjoy for a bit longer, and
Not cast them aside so soon.

Fate had already spoken, and Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth by challenging his manhood:

Are you afraid
To be the same man in reality
As the one you wish to be? Would you have the crown
Which you believe to be the ornament of life,
And yet live like a coward in your own self-esteem,
Letting "I shouldn’t" wait for "I would,"
Like the poor cat in the proverb?

Macbeth's future is destined by fate. The witches and Lady Macbeth are in agreement. Macbeth will meet fate face to face. Macduff will repay Macbeth for his evil choices. Macduff will behead Macbeth. As fate would have it, Macduff was born through cesarean birth since no man born of woman could kill Macbeth.


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