With the Elizabethans' strong beliefs in the spiritual realm, the worlds of the preternatural and the human certainly drive the plot of Macbeth as the interplay of the prophesies of the three witches and Macbeth's "vaulting ambition" raise questions as to which is the greater influence upon him. Truly, from the very onset of the drama, the workings of fate seem to predominate. In Act I, Scene 2, for instance, a bleeding captain returns from the battlefield and describes to King Duncan and Malcolm the victory of Macbeth over fate. He relates how Macbeth should have died as the enemy swarmed upon him, but he defied fate:
And fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling
Showed like a rebel's whore, but all's too weak:
For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name--
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody executions (1.2.8-12)
After encountering the three witches with Banquo, as they predict that Banquo will father kings and Macbeth will be made Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth's friend cautions him to not give these creatures' words much credence. However, within minutes Ross arrives to tell Macbeth that the king has bestowed this title upon him. In an aside to Banquo, Macbeth whispers that two truths have just been told. And then in an aside, Macbeth ponders the power of fate,
If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me,
Without my stir. (1.3.154-155)
But, at the same time, Banquo understands the role that free will plays,
New honors come upon him,
Like ouir strange garments, cleave not to their mold
But with the aid of use. (1.3.158-160)
In Act 1, Scene 7, Macbeth has freely chosen to take matters into his own hands, acting on his own free will,
I am settled, and bend up
Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.
Away, and mock the time with fairest show:
False face must hide what the false heart doth know. (1.7.90-93)
But before he murders Duncan, Macbeth wrestles with his conscience and believes that he sees fate planning for him, hoping to ease his anxiety, for he does not wish to kill his kinsman, and realizes the seriousness of regicide:
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand?Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain? (2.2.41-47)
Later, Macbeth realizes more that it has been his "vaulting ambition" which has driven him and not fate. Yet, he proves himself ever the warrior at the end as he fights to the death.