In Macbeth, do the witches truly prophesize what will happen?I have to write an essay on Macbeth and the following at essay topics:   Ambition Order Self-fulfilling Prophecy Foul/Fair...

In Macbeth, do the witches truly prophesize what will happen?

I have to write an essay on Macbeth and the following at essay topics:




Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Foul/Fair (Duality)

I'm leaning towards ambition of self-fulfilling prophecy. However, I'm not sure what I would write about if I did self-fulfilling prophecy as it's a rather shaky topic to write about. There's limited evidence. The witches prophesize that Banquo's sons will inherit the thrown, but that doesn't come true. Then, Macbeth becomes king, but he does it by killing Duncan which could be self-fulfilling prophecy. However, the witches also prophesize the Great Birnam Wood moving, and that is something that is true prophecy.

I ask that some of you please provide more insight! Thanks so much in advance!

Asked on by noeylani94

3 Answers

dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Your question about writing an essay on Macbeth probably should be placed as a question on a discussion board.  You ask for more information than can be given in just one answer.  I will just mention a couple of things to help you refine and clarify your thinking, which is what we all have to do in the early stages of the writing process.  First, "ambition of self-fulfilling prophecy" is unclear.  Your thought is inexact, and will doom your essay if you don't refine it before you begin to write.  Second, just so you are not confused about your evidence, Banquo's heirs do end up on the throne.  In fact, James I of England, Shakespeare's patron, is an heir of Banquo.  Shakespeare in fact makes Banquo a "good guy" in the play even though he was a conspirator in actuality, most likely because he wanted to please King James.  Finally, you should be aware that James I was fascinated with witchcraft and at least some of Shakespeare's contemporaries would have believed in it.  Thus, while arguments certainly exist in favor of the prophecies in the play being self-fulfilling, you should at least be aware of opposing arguments.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I do think that your thesis will work -- I don't think that you should have any problem.

If I were you, I would talk about how some of the prophecies do seem to come true on their own while others of them are caused to happen by those who hear the prophecies.  You can say "okay, these prophecies were self-fulfilling and these weren't."

So I think you should definitely put Macbeth killing Duncan in with the self-fulfilling ones.  But you should put the Birnam Woods one, the "man born of woman" one, and the "Thane of Cawdor" one can be put under prophecies that come true sort of on their own.

noeylani94's profile pic

noeylani94 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on


There was no thesis in there?


Already know all that information stated above. "ambition of self-fulfilling prophecy" was my fault, I meant ambition OR self-fulfilling prophecy.