Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is an example of fate or free will in act 4 of Macbeth?

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Marietta Sadler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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In act 4, scene 1, the apparitions that appear to Macbeth predict that Macbeth should "Beware Macduff," that "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth," and also that "Macbeth shall never vanquished be until / Great Birnham Wood to high Dunsinane Hill / Should come against him." These three predictions are presented as fate. Later in the same scene Macbeth is shown a line of eight kings, followed by the ghost of Banquo who smiles at Macbeth while pointing to the line of kings. Macbeth understands this as a glimpse into a future that is fated to happen. The future is ruled by Banquo's descendants on the throne that he, Macbeth, currently occupies.

At the end of act 4, scene 1, Macbeth insists that he will, from this moment on, act more decisively, and more impulsively. He says that "The very firstlings of my heart shall be / The firstlings of my hand." This declaration seems to be Macbeth's response to the fates he has just been presented with. It is perhaps a vain attempt to assert his own free...

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