How does Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" reflect the character Macbeth from William Shakespeare's play Macbeth?
It should be assumed that Macbeth is the speaker of "The Road Not Taken."
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Two roads diverged in Birnham Wood,
Macbeth was wavering; he thought about killing King Duncan as soon as he was tempted by the witches upon his first meeting with them. Then he decided that maybe he shouldn't do anything. Then he talked to Lady Macbeth, and she did her best to convince him to carry out the murder. He told her that he'd talk about it later. Finally, while the King is at dinner, he tells his wife (Act 1, scene 7):
We will proceed no further in this business:
He hath honor'd me of late, and I have bought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
Not cast aside so soon.
Here he is facing two diverging roads. He is ready to take a road of peace, one of "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me Without my stir."
Then Lady Macbeth rips into him, chastises him, demeans him, and eventually gets him to take the other road, the road of murder, and guilt, and more murder, paranoia, madness and death.
And what of the road not taken, the road of not stirring, of just living life out and seeing where it takes him? Well, Macbeth, like Frost, "knowing how way leads on to way," will never get the chance to know where that road would have taken him.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost plays out the central dilemma between contemplation and action, to put it in Renaissance terms, the otium-negotium binary. The link with Macbeth thus, only extends the universal thematics of the poem. It may be seen as an oblique commentary on the psychical state of Macbeth (even Brutus in Caesar or Hamlet too!), torn between thought and action. In most of Shakespeare's tragic protagonists, the interim between a process of thinking and its actual realization in action is the problematic site of the undecidable and a site with a potential to deconstruct the action. Man is a thinking animal and that is his biggest gift as well as his greatest curse. Macbeth cannot help think on action before and after it. Lady Macbeth's "what is done can never be undone", Macbeth's idea of 'tomorrow' and 'yesterday', the 'it is done' speech before the murder, Lady Macbeth's 'catch the nearest way' all ring a bell with Frost's poem.
The dynamics of ways keep presenting to us ironic choices and our destiny always seems to be determined the road that we do not take--an abandoned trajectory, to which we can never come back in life. Human desire, in its neurotic form, is always a desire for an impossible object and that is what both Frost's abandoned road and Macbeth's self-suppressed ethic represent.
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