June 2, 2011
The question is whether the witches cause the crimes or just merely predict the moral choices of Macbeth. All of us have to make choices that involve right and wrong or good and bad. Our moral choices are a set of values that are influenced by our up bringing. This play seems to indicate that Macbeth struggles within between his ambitions and his sense of right and wrong. I believe the witches predicted the crimes which may have influenced his actions but the moral decision to kill was made by Macbeth alone.
Macbeth was a military man which enables him to contemplate his choices and then kill. He was in fact a killing machine. After fighting a vicious battle and being declared a valiant hero his ego is flying high. He meets up with the three witches who heighten his ego and curiosity with their predictions. He begins to wonder what needs to be done in order to be king. He convinces himself that he can only be king by killing Duncan. The very ambitious Lady Macbeth validates Macbeth’s moral choice by playing on his manliness and bravery. She plans Duncan’s murder which Macbeth accepts.
My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man That function is smothered in sunrise, And nothing is but what is not. (1.3.152-155)
I am settled and bend up
Each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Away, and mock the time with fairest show. False face must hide what the false heart doth know. (1.7. 92-95)
He begins to wrestle with moral choices. Macbeth chooses the immoral plan and carries it out knowing that it is wrong. The witches did not predict that Macbeth would kill the king or the chamberlains. They only predict that Macbeth would be king. They didn’t tell him he must do anything. He let Lady Macbeth influence him into making an immoral choice based on the predictions from the witches and their thirst to be king and queen.
After Macbeth is coroneted as king he begins to fear his friend Banquo. He enlists the services of two murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance. He makes this decision without the help of Lady Macbeth. The killing machine is back but this time he has others do the deed for him. Banquo is killed but Fleance escapes which angers Macbeth. Macbeth still feels threaten by Macduff who has fled to England. He decides to seek out the witches who offer more predictions to alleviate his fears. Macbeth resolves to send murderers to capture Macduff’s castle and kill Macduff’s wife and children. He believes it needs to be done quickly before he changes his mind.
Time, thou anticipat’st my dread exploits. The flighty purpose never is o’ertook Unless the deed go with it. From this moment The very firstlings of my heart shall be The firstlings of my hand. And even now, To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and Done:
The castle of Macduff I will surprise, Seize upon Fife, give to th’ edge o’ th’ sword His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool; This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool. But no more sights!-Where are these gentlemen? Come bring me where they are. (4.1. 164-177)
His internal conflicts are causing him great anxiety, guilt and madness. He makes the choice to continue killing based on fear of people finding out about him killing the king. Although his conscience is bothering him, he is not thinking of the consequences of his actions. In anger and fear of loosing the throne, he resolves to do whatever is necessary to keep his crown. The witches’ predictions may have influenced his decision to continue to rid the threats to the throne but he still chose to do the wrong thing; kill.
In the beginning Macbeth was an honorable man whose ambition overrides his sense of morality. He was warned by Banquo about the witches prophesies but the temptation was greater. He blamed the witches for deceiving him with half truths when in reality they are only responsible for introducing the ideas’ to him. The witches did have a great influence on his actions which led him on an unstoppable path to his own death and the suicide of Lady Macbeth. The impatient choice to kill was his alone thus choosing his own destiny.
In comparing the oracles in Oedipus the King with the witches in Macbeth, I have decided that the two accomplished the same. They may have influenced the choices that were made but the actions of the individual brought about their own destiny. We are responsible for our own choices whether they are right or wrong or good or bad. They are our own choices. How we play the cards that are dealt is up to us.