Macbeth Analysis: a Victim of His Own Choices, Fate Or His Character

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Macbeth's Fate vs Free Will
  • Dark Personal Ambitions in Macbeth
  • Macbeth and Tragedy of Characters' Choices
  • Conclusion


Fate predetermines events and any choices leading up to them; therefore, human actions would not influence the causing of an event if fate is involved since it is inevitable. In William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, we see many examples of how fate does not cause events to occur. Macbeth clearly is an independent individual who determines how his life will play out and makes choices regardless of other circumstances that he cannot control. Even though Macbeth may seem like a tragedy of fate because of flaws with the society he functions in, his character determines the majority of circumstances in the play.

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Macbeth's Fate vs Free Will

While fate can influence certain things, it does not play a major role in Macbeth. Several times during Shakespeare’s play, we see examples of how Macbeth consciously chooses an option, such as deciding whether or not to trust the witch’s prophecies; consequently, Macbeth is a victim of his own choices because his own actions eventually lead him to his death, not his fate. In the story, Macbeth has significant freedom over whether or not he will listen to the witches; moreover, the witches do not force or instigate him to create a murderous proposal, but instead, Macbeth suggests killing Duncan . Additionally, the fact Macbeth makes the choice to fulfill the prophecy is made without fate being involved. Hence, if the prophecy had been accomplished with a dependence on fate, different events would have happened, including as the murder of Duncan by Macbeth being nonexistent. Even when people morally attempt to reason with Macbeth concerning his idea to murder Duncan, Macbeth states that his heart is set on completing the act . Once again, Macbeth deliberately chooses to kill Duncan and does not doubt his own actions regardless of his destiny.

Dark Personal Ambitions in Macbeth

In multiple soliloquies, Macbeth expresses “black and deep desires.” to become king. Ultimately, he defeats his disinclination to kill Duncan, going against moral values and respect he had for others. Macbeth also acknowledges his freewill during many scenes, such as when he says “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition?” , portraying his strong ambitions. As Macbeth pictures the dagger in his mind in 2.1., it is more believable that it is his personal schemas enabling him to imagine the decision that he wishes to make in the near future than his fate.

Macbeth and Tragedy of Characters' Choices

It is apparent that fate does not have a major impact on Macbeth’s physical and mental actions, as he feels guilty after murdering Duncan; if fate had been responsible, he would not have felt responsible for the death and would have blamed it on external causes. Later in the play, Lady Macbeth also exhibits her mastery over Macbeth, persuading him to follow through with his plans. She even states that she will carry out his idea if he cannot in Act 1, scene 5, when she clarifies to Macbeth her authority with her phrase: “But screw your courage to the sticking place, And we’ll not fail.” As the story continues, it rapidly shifts from being about the death of one character to many characters dying. Therefore, Shakespeare’s play ends as a tragedy of the choices of characters, not fate.


Typically, tragedies of fate are focused on moral values outlawing character’s destinies; however, in Macbeth, the events are mostly caused by actions of characters, therefore, making the storyline based off of personal choices. In fact, Macbeth refuses to listen to his ambition and allows for his wife, Lady Macbeth, to induce him into committing a sinful deed. Moreover, there is a clear connection between moral accountability, as characters like Macbeth realize how their options affect others and have strong impulses for independence in making decisions. In the end, this fate of character leads to the death of more characters than readers expect, including Macbeth, as they aimed to force events to occur and dominate their own fates.        

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