Homework Help

In Macbeth, how responsible are the witches for Macbeth's downfall?I was interested in...

user profile pic

jd-123 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted April 17, 2012 at 12:05 AM via web

dislike 0 like

In Macbeth, how responsible are the witches for Macbeth's downfall?

I was interested in someone else's opinion and I also wanted to know who/what else played a part in Macbeth's downfall. (it can be Lady Macbeth or a characteristic such as ambition)

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

rc1994 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted April 25, 2012 at 3:07 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

The witches are only partially responsible for Macbeth's downfall, because they simply influence his fate. They are in no way able to control Macbeth or his fate. The extent of their influential power is unclear. However, it is important to realize that the witches are very powerful, supernatural individuals. Therefore, the extent of their influence and temptation may be to such a degree that Macbeth, a mere human, is unable to handle or resist it.

I believe that Macbeth was once an honorable, ambitious man. However, this ambition transforms into a devastating hunger for power, which is ultimately his downfall. Lady Macbeth, who is also an ambitious character, played a part in Macbeth's downfall as well. Lady Macbeth is clearly a very dominant character and wife, and she is able to use this to her advantage as she persuades her husband to murder Duncan and seize the crown.

user profile pic

Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 5, 2012 at 8:41 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

The witches' role in Macbeth's downfall is that of amused spectators who merely set events in motion, so they could watch the outcome.  They speak prophetically to Macbeth, but do not force him to act or even tell him what to do. 

Macbeth engineers the plots which ultimately lead to his downfall.  In his soliloquy in Act I, scene 7, Macbeth compares his "vaulting ambition" to a "spur to prick the sides of my intent" (1.7.25-26).  He understands that these choices are his to make and recognizes that ambition motivates him to act against Duncan. 

Later in the play, Macbeth also single-handedly plans the murder of Banquo and Fleance, fearing that Banquo "should be the root and father of many kings" (3.1.5-6)   This line comes from the witches' original prophecy, but Macbeth uses it to convince himself that Banquo and Fleance represent a threat to his reign as king.

Ultimately, Macbeth's ambition proves to be his true undoing.  He has no one to blame but himself.



Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes