Is Macbeth a tragedy of destiny or a tragedy of character?Is Macbeth a tragedy of destiny or a tragedy of character?

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troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth could be seen as a tragedy of both destiny and character; however, with Shakespeare, he prefers to point out the weaknesses in individuals as well as society.  The best answer would be that of the character.

We first see Lady Macbeth as the ambitious character.  She is so determined for her husband to wear the crown that she chastises him with what she would do for him if he asked it from her.

"How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this."

She would have killed her own child for him.  That's pretty disgusting for a character to go that far.  Then Macbeth goes beyond just killing the king and has killers go after Banquo, his son, and then eventually the ENTIRE family of Macduff.  These are all steps taken by a character in order to fulfill destiny.  The witches gave him the idea, but it was his own will that made him go after his dream.  He lost control at the point when Lady Macbeth's guilt was beginning to get the best of her.  Both characters end in tragedy because of their ambition to rule.

mpenza eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A very interesting question: Macbeth uses the fact that the witches prophesy his rise in power in Scotland to commit horrible, atricoous acts. When in fact that only thing the Wierd Sister have correct is the fact that Macbeth is going to be crowned the Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth decided to "augment" his fate by killing Duncan, Banquo, Duncan's Guards, and countless others. The play deals with the tragedy of the character of Macbeth. Character has a dual meaning here: it could mean the person in the story --- Macbeth or the moral code of Macbeth. One looking in this vein should see that the characterflaw of the naked ambition of Macbeth leads to all of the tragedy in the play. If Macbeth did not take the prophecy of the Weird Sisters and pervert it then the tragedy could have been avoided. To look and say that it was destiny that Macbeth did these things or that destiny guided him would be foolish. Macbeth is a study in what a man can see in innocuous portents when he has unchecked ambition.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At first glance, Macbeth seems to be a tragedy of destiny. The witches prophecies begin to come true and it seems that Macbeth and Banquo have been predestined for certain roles. However, Macbeth actually chooses his destiny when he plots and chooses to kill Duncan. From then on, his goal is to protect his throne even though the witches have told him already that he would be king. He still feels it important to kill Banquo and try to kill Banquo even though he is no threat to him if all he is considering are the witches prophetic messages. So the main tragedies of the play are because of choices Macbeth chose and not the destinies that are supposedly chosen for him.

kc4u | Student

Shakespeare's Macbeth is a Renaissance re-working of a crude and linear medieval story. Macbeth is both 'foul' and 'fair'; he has a secret ambition for the throne of Scotland, and he has an imaginative conscience to deter him from catching 'the nearest way' to fulfil his ambition.

Renaissance ushered in a modern and more complex tragic view of which Shakespeare was the greatest exponent. Man stood at the centre of the universe, no longer a poor creature of inscrutable destiny. A highly admired and robustly competent soldier, Macbeth is a man of character. The tragic destiny he suffers from issues from the depth of his character: his ambition( the 'foul' in him) ironically prevailing over his conscience( the 'fair' in him). Lady Macbeth catalyses the self-tortuous process, and ultimately falls a victim to her own sense of guilt.

greeshma | Student

thank u for all ur replies.....

it was very helpful....