Analysis of the Actions of Macbeth and Doctor Faustus Based on Free Will and Fate

Topics: Macbeth, Christopher Marlowe, Three Witches Pages: 4 (1670 words) Published: February 12, 2012
Many scholars have debated whether the actions of Macbeth and Doctor Faustus in Shakespeare’s and Marlowe’s plays come from the characters themselves or whether they were following a predetermined fate. In the play The Tragedy of Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, each character’s destiny, or fate, seems to be predetermined by the supernatural and unpreventable by any actions meant to stop it from occurring. The concept of fate is a large component in many Aristotelian Tragedies, such as Macbeth. However, in the tragedy, The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (commonly referred to as just Doctor Faustus), written by Christopher Marlowe, Faustus’s actions show a theme of free-will repeated throughout the play. His actions lead him to live a life that many envied, but to die a death without repentance that none desired. Throughout the Renaissance, due to the greater access to knowledge, new emphasis was added to the role of the individual’s free will while less emphasis was placed upon the divine. Christopher Marlowe’s work, Doctor Faustus, demonstrates this new trend in free will as Faustus made his own choices which determined his terrible fate. As a result, the active role of God was limited in the play while the Devil’s presence was emphasized through the will and ambition of Doctor Faustus (Engberg). Because of his self-reliance, God’s influence decreased in the mind of Faustus, who wished to gain power through knowledge, not theology. Consequentially, the acts of God dwindled to the point where they were virtually nonexistent throughout Doctor Faustus. According to Engberg, Faustus is “flagrantly disobedient, disrespectful and unloving toward God.” However, even though Mephistopheles wishes to bring Faustus’s soul to Lucifer, he still is completely honest to Faustus and does not attempt to trick him; he even attempts to dissuade him from making the deal that will put him in hell for eternity. Mephistopheles tells Faustus of the...

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Harper, Wendy R. "Polanski vs. Welles on Macbeth CHARACTER OR FATE?" Literature Film Quarterly 14 (1986): 203-11. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <http://>.
Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus. Ed. Geraldine McCaughrean. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.
"Norns: The Weird Sisters in Macbeth." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press, 7 Jan. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <>.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Elements of Literature: Sixth Course, Literature of Britain. Ed. Kristine E. Marshall. Austin: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1997.
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