Macbeth has leaned into the prophecies of the witches early in the play because they tell him things that he wants to hear. They seemingly continue to predict that he deserves to be King, which emboldens him to commit regicide. However, in his final meeting with the witches, their predictions...
Macbeth has leaned into the prophecies of the witches early in the play because they tell him things that he wants to hear. They seemingly continue to predict that he deserves to be King, which emboldens him to commit regicide. However, in his final meeting with the witches, their predictions aren't so favorable. One of the witches tells Macbeth that "none of woman born / shall harm" him; unfortunately, Macbeth misinterprets this prediction (IV.i.87-88). Macbeth wants to believe that his ambitious quest will serve him well, so he believes that the witch is telling him that no one can possibly harm him. After all, aren't all people born of a woman? Macbeth thus replies, "Then live, Macduff. What need I fear of thee?" (IV.i.89).
Filled with new courage, Macbeth clings to the idea that he deserves to be King. When he meets Macduff in the final scene, he boldly tells Macduff what the witches have said:
Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests;
I bear a charmèd life, which must not yield
To one of woman born. (V.vii.14-16)
Imagine Macbeth's shock when Macduff casually replies,
Despair thy charm,
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb
Untimely ripped. (V.vii.17-20)
Instead of being born vaginally, Macduff was "ripped" from this mother via a caesarean section delivery. One has to imagine that this was not a common method of delivery when Shakespeare wrote the play during the early 1600s. A mother would have no real anesthesia as someone performed this surgery on her, which means that she would have endured incredible pain in order to deliver the baby. Likely, such a delivery would have resulted in maternal death.
It is a stretch in our society to imagine that people considered a caesarean delivery as not being "born," but this idea reflects the way that medicine has changed our lives in the past four hundred years.