Is the conclusion of Macbeth caused by the central character or the workings of fate? This question is posed for inclusion in an essay.

Expert Answers
andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fate is generally understood to refer to developments which are beyond a person's control - it is a synonym for destiny or providence.

Was Macbeth's death and the ascension to the throne by Malcolm therefore the result of destiny? The answer would be more no than yes. One has to accede that all of the characters were born because of fate - they had no control over their births. If Macbeth had not been born, there would have been no death, no tyranny by him, etc. The same with Malcolm. If he had not been born, his brother would in all probability, have been the first born and would have ascended to the throne.

Macbeth did not become a courageous and skillful swordsman because of destiny. He trained hard and fought his way through the ranks. It might have been his destiny that his father's title (thane of Glamis) was passed on to him - an act of providence, but he still had to prove himself to gain the respect and command that he won. This is displayed by the fact that king Duncan awarded him a further title, thane of Cawdor, for his bravery and loyalty.

Macbeth's 'overriding ambition' was a matter of choice. Circumstances beyond his control did not force him to be ambitious. The fact that the witches used equivocation and paradox to mislead him and that he believed their every utterance, was also not an act of destiny. We may say that his unfortunate first encounter with them may have been destined, but the fact that he ultimately believed what they said and that he acted upon their advice, was a choice that he made. He was in control and decided to believe in their predictions, unlike Banquo, who remained skeptical and expressed concern about his friend being enraptured by what they said.

The fact that the witches' first prediction was realized, acted as a spur to drive Macbeth towards his doom. He made a conscious decision to murder Duncan and was not forced into it. He could have ignored Lady Macbeth's urging and taunting and refused to commit this most foul deed, but he relented and did it anyway, knowing full well what the outcome would be.

Macbeth's second visit to the witches was definitely out of choice. He needed further conviction and assurance that he would not be challenged. The witches warning that he should, 'beware Macduff' drove him into murdering a once loyal compatriot's entire family. It was paranoia which drove Macbeth, not destiny. The fact that he had Banquo and many others killed, was a matter of choice.

Macbeth realized that he was so 'steeped in blood' that there was no turning back and he plodded forth in his relentless and murderous spree. He was the master of his fate and when, in his final confrontation with Macduff, he shockingly realized the depth of the witches' deception, he knew how wrong he had been and cursed the evil sisters. However, he stubbornly refused to break and bow to any authority, choosing to rather fight to the death. He was vanquished by Macduff who presented his head to Malcolm, who would later be crowned master of the realm.

Read the study guide:

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question