In Macbeth, do you think Macbeth is a free agent or a victim of fate?In Macbeth, do you think Macbeth is a free agent or a victim of fate?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You already have brilliant information above, but I'll add a bit more to the collection. On a more pedestrian level, Macbeth faces two sets of forces, human and supernatural. The human forces, in the form of his own ambitions and Lady Macbeth's ambition, drive decisions while the supernatural forces, in the form of the bizarre witch sisters, drive the machinery of fate.

If we step away from the weird sisters for the sake of discussion, Lady Macbeth's scheming and soliciting of promises began before Macbeth's return from the gathering with Duncan, during which Macbeth's ambitions were disappointed. In addition, Macbeth's own ambitions and feelings of misuse were stirred by his own hand, not needing the stirring hands of the witches.

It is the combination of forces that create the Macbeth whom we follow in the play and who digs himself into such a devastating position of subservience (to Lady Macbeth), which was ironically devised to free him of subservience (to Duncan). Shakespeare seems to be drawing our attention to the idea that life is a mixture of will and fate instead of an exercise of free will or a domination by fate: It is a magical mixture akin to the boiling bubbling trouble of the witch's cauldron's mixture.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

None of us is a free agent in this world in terms of what we are born with in terms of genes, personality traits,physical attributes and intelligence/emotional capability and heredity is extremely important in this area although Shakespeare did not have access to our research back then - it is mind-boggling to think what more he could have done with that information! In the play "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare, the author does show us a character affected by Fate - poor Macbeth is afflicted by the frailnessess in his persoanality, his vulnerable mental and psychological stamina and,perhaps, by a traumatic childhood, although we can only guiess at the last one. Propensity for evil is another possibilty.

kc4u | Student

Macbeth is neither a fully free agent nor just a victim of fate. The Erasmus-Luther debate about determinism and free-will is something that the play surely points to at a profound thematic level. Macbeth as a character is located in the paradigmatic shift from Greek to Renaissance tragedy where there is a gradual reduction of the role of destiny and tragedy becoming more characterological in a way.

The basic point that a play like Macbeth makes about the problem of evil is that it is both inside and outside, both subjective and objective at the same time. Here it is a combination of Macbeth's vaulting ambition, his particularly biased way of interpreting the language given to him by the witches in the name of prophecy and riddle and the obvious flesh and blood presence of the supernatural figures, who tend upon mortal thought all the while.