Would you agree that Macbeth is not equal to the struggle with fate and conscience in "Macbeth"?Would you agree that Macbeth is unequal to struggle with fate and conscience? Please explain your...

Would you agree that Macbeth is not equal to the struggle with fate and conscience in "Macbeth"?

Would you agree that Macbeth is unequal to struggle with fate and conscience? Please explain your answer.

Asked on by madi40

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Macbeth seems to have no or very little self-control.  By all accounts, he is a brave soldier when the play starts.  However, as soon as the witches tell him he will be Thane of Cawdor and king, he starts to think he should be.  When the first comes true but not the second, Macbeth instantly reacts by saying that he should be king.  Malcolm is in his way.

Stars, hide your fires;

Let not light see my black and deep desires:

The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be

Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. (Act 1, Scene 4, p. 18)

He does seem to be aware that his desires are improper, and he describes them as “black” and does not want anyone to see. 

Macbeth also cannot stand up to his wife.  When she insists that killing Duncan is the way to go, he becomes a bit whiny.  First he asks if they should fail, then he asks what will happen if their frame-up job doesn’t work.

Will it not be received,

When we have mark'd with blood those sleepy two

Of his own chamber, and used their very daggers,(85)

That they have done't? (Act 1, Scene 7, p. 24)

Lady Macduff assures him it will work, and they will not be suspected.  Malcolm and Donalbain will flee, and the kingdom with be theirs.  From that point on, Macbeth gets sunk deeper and deeper into the quagmire.  He has to kill Banquo and Fleance, because Banquo suspects him and the prophecy said Fleance would be king.  He kills Macduff’s entire family.  He goes to war against Malcolm’s army.  He starts a chain of events he seems powerless to stop, and it leads to his destruction.

Sources:
tsentell's profile pic

tsentell | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Macbeth at the outset of the play is an admirable man--a good warrior and a man of good conscience. His encounter with fate in the form of the three weird sisters is the beginning of his downfall. He had the hubris to believe he could be king, as they told him, but to achieve that he would have to eliminate Duncan whom he cared for and owed loyalty to. His ambitions for the throne are stoked by his wife when there is the merest suggestion of opportunity.

And yet, his conscience is close by. His reluctance to kill Duncan draws us to him in sympathy and it is this conscience that makes him sympathetic to us to the end of the play.

It is this visceral struggle with himself that is so appealling to us.We see him again and again being given promises that are true literally but for one so wonderfully confident in himself, he cannot see behind the surface truth and discern the tricks that "fate" is playing on him.

The parrallel to Oedipus is striking. Macbeth knows he should not proceed  and yet his ego impels him just as Oedipus is told by all around him not ot proceed yet he does, as well.

Each has followed his own will and not the machinations of the gods. 

It is this human will that makes them so appealling to us. We too have will and make choices that define the trajectory of our own lives.  That is why we are fascinated and involved with their struggles.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Macbeth THINKS he is up to the challenge by facing off with the witches...look at how he goes from "asking" them for more information to "demanding" it in later meetings.  However, the weird sisters (instruments of fate of all humans) enjoy toying with people.  They intentionally mislead him...give him false security...in their apparitions.  He is doomed from the beginning when up against fate once he decides to "stir" things up instead of waiting for "chance to make him King".

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I think I can give my opinion on your question. I don't think Macbeth can struggle with conscience because he seems not to have one. He wants to be king so much that he interprets all of the witches prophecies as being in his favor. He tries to change fate by killing anybody who is in his way to attaining the throne. Today we might call him a sociopath.

mrerick's profile pic

mrerick | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

I'm not sure I quite understand your question, but I certainly think Macbeth is having issues with fate bs. conscience.  Fate tells him that he will be king, and he knows that it can't be because of his family relationship to Duncan.  For that end, he must get rid of Duncan and his sons in order to meet fate; hence, he plots to and finally does assassinate Duncan.

Conscience, on the other hand, tells him that it's not cool to kill a king who has been a good king to the country and to Macbeth personally.

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I may be missing something, but to what or to whom is he unequal? Are you asking whether he has a conscience? I need a little more detail. 

madi40's profile pic

madi40 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I may be missing something, but to what or to whom is he unequal? Are you asking whether he has a conscience? I need a little more detail. 

i mean would you agree that macbeth was 'not equal to the struggle with fate and conscience'. i hope you it's okay.

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