The Unfortunate Fate of Macbeth

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Jed McGill
December 2012
English IV H
Mrs. Grimaldi
The Unfortunate Fate of Macbeth

Fate, in the classical sense, is something that will, unquestionably, happen at some point in the future. Macbeth’s fate is told to him by three witches early on in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, putting the plot in motion. Chiefly among these is that Macbeth will be king by the end of the play. This does indeed happen, as do the rest of the fates told, save one. The question, then, is this: is this fate fulfilled in events occurring after the play’s conclusion? The answer has to do with fate, free will, and truthfulness. Fate is something that must happen and is a prediction of free will, but those telling it are not always necessarily telling it truthfully.

Some might argue that some of the events that the witches describe result from free will entirely, that fate had nothing to do with the events that occur. The witches, or, in this case, apparitions, predict some events that are unquestionably a result of fate, however. Most notably of these is that: Macbeth shall never vanquished be until

Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him.
(IV.i.96-98)
An event as major as this, predicted so precisely, could not possibly be simply a result of free will. That is not to say, however, that fate caused the soldiers to carry the trees; fate never causes anything in stories such as this, rather, it merely exists.

Fate is often conceptualized as an invisible force with godlike qualities. In stories such as Macbeth, it is more comparable to a document to be read, rather than a divine presence. The witches and apparitions are supernatural beings gifted with the abilities to read the document that is fate. Fates exist whether they are read or not. If one does read their fate or that of another, it was their fate to do so and therefore did not alter fate, which cannot be altered. Following this logic, it was always fate that Macbeth, “shalt be...
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