The Theme of Fate Vs Free Will in Macbeth's Play

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Macbeth portrays feelings of uncertainty and anxiety when he asks the question “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash blood Clean from my hand?”. This quote shows Macbeth talking about Duncan’s blood on his hands, Duncan’s blood symbolised guilt; foreshadowing the events later on in the play. Macbeth also says that even with “Neptune’s ocean” his hands wouldn’t be clean, and will stay with him forever, emphasising his feeling of guilt that haunts him throughout the play. It reveals that he feels guilt and regret after committing regicide; in addition, it also reveals that Macbeth isn’t entirely the enemy. The use of the “?” suggests that Macbeth is asking for forgiveness. It suggests that Macbeth is perhaps seeking approval as he is completely unsure about everything himself. This quote contrasts later on in the play when Lady Macbeth hallucinates the blood on her hands and says “a little water clears us of this deed” just after the extract. This shows how Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are complete opposites. Lady Macbeth can brush matters off quickly whereas Macbeth takes a longer time to move on.

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Earlier on in the speech, Lady Macbeth says “Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers”. The phrase “Infirm of purpose” suggests how Lady Macbeth feels about Macbeths lack of bravery. It is quite a key phrase in this speech as it shows how confident Lady Macbeth is, whilst she comments on how cowardly Macbeth is, while he is feeling guilty. This scene plays a big part in foreshadowing the later events, when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth switch roles, in this scene of the play, Macbeth is worrying, whilst Lady Macbeth is relaxed and laid-back. As the play goes on, they switch roles, Lady Macbeth becomes distressed which can be seen in the quote “out damned spot” and the fact she committed suicide. Macbeth then becomes the laid-back one with no worries as he has no regrets and ends up killing a load of people. The imperative “Give” shows that she is controlling Macbeth and is telling him what to do, which goes against gender stereo types.

Just after, Lady Macbeth says “tis the eye of childhood That fears a painted devil”. This gives the impression that she is once again comparing him to a child. The responses by both are opposites. Macbeth appears regretful, almost like he is trying to seek forgiveness and acceptance of what he has done. Lady Macbeth however appears to say that this was a good deed. Something she wanted to happen and by seeking proof that it did, she acknowledges the action was completed.

In the play as a whole, we can tell that Lady Macbeth is the more dominant one in their marriage. This is visible in the metaphor “too full o’ the milk of human kindness” which shows she is practically calling him a baby and that he ‘needs’ to be nurtured. It also shows that he has been brought up to be kind but she has decided that it is not what they need. The word “milk” makes it seem that it could be positive, as a mother would feed their child so that they would grow up to be strong and make them proud, but she turns it around. This mirrors Macbeth’s and the Witches morals and outlooks on good and evil. The metaphor also links to the quote “then you were a man” which suggests she doesn’t think he is manly enough.

In the time the play is set, the audience would have expected the man to be the dominant one but the gender roles between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have been reversed. It indicates that possibly she could be the real power behind the throne. It shows that he makes choices but she influences him a lot and manipulates him, she uses him as a tool just like the Witches used him as an “instrument of darkness”. This then connects to the theme of fate vs free will in Macbeth play, perhaps it is a battle between good and evil and the human characters are just chess pieces used by greater powers, greater events hidden between overall insignificant others. Throughout the play, you can begin to see that Lady Macbeth is the real villain of the play. It also becomes obvious that her love for Macbeth was over ruled but her lust for power and determination.

In Act 1 Scene 5, Lady Macbeth says “Come you spirits… Unsex me here”. The phrase “Come you spirits” proves that they are allowing the supernatural to enter into their lives. It shows that Lady Macbeth is willingly offering herself for possession just to be sure that the plan will be done. But we can see that she is unsure in its success. To me, the verb “come” creates an idea that she could represent the subconscious, Macbeth is conscious at the start, and then once he no longer needs her, he spirals into madness.

The phrase “Unsex me here” is one of the most famous quotes in the play. In this quote, it becomes obvious that she regrets being born a woman. It creates the audience to question why she is asking to be stripped of her sex. She doesn’t need power or courage but sees her sex as her main obstacle. In Shakespearean times, women were seen as sly but also weak, fragile and prone to temptation. A woman would be more likely to be responsible for poisoning someone or commiting treason but for Lady Macbeth this was not the case. She feels as if she must be as cold and as cunning as possible. However, these traits were considered very masculine. Macbeth was manly enough to be king and yet in Lady Macbeth’s eyes he lacked the qualities to carry out the murder. She considered herself in charge and wanted to get rid of her feminine weaknesses. The prefix “un-“ is quite common throughout “Macbeth”. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use it often almost as if they want to undo many things in their life, it feels as though words used in this play that begin with “un-“ are used as expressions of regret what has happened.

In act 3, Macbeth says “I am in blood stepped in so far that, should I wade n more, returning were as tedious as go o’er” which is a metaphor as he killed Duncan and Banquo so he must have “stepped” in blood. The word “tedious” shows that killing isn’t significant to him anymore and that he is beyond the point of redemption or return. There is repeated imagery of “blood” which is a symbol of guilt.

In Act 1 Scene 4, Macbeth says “Stars hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires”. This is a deception from the “stars “which could mean he wants to deceive God. Almost like he has accepted that he has become associated with supernatural. This shows God vs Devil, his selfishness has caused him to choose a side, which contrasts between light and dark, good and evil. The adjective “deep” suggests that the truth will come to the surface and show who he really is.

In act 1 Scene 2, Duncan says “What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won” demonstrating that even when someone else saw problems and downfalls he would use this opportunity to benefit himself. This then mirrors the witches when they say “Fair is foul and foul is fair”. Macbeth then says his first words in the play, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” which also mirrors the witches, and shows that his mind isn’t clear about his morals and the difference between good and evil. It also shows that it was his fate as the witches weren’t influenced. This then links to the quote “Murder yet is but fantastical”. The phrase “he hath lost” is talking about the Old Thane of Cawdor what helps to foreshadow his fate as he was not loyal to Duncan. At the time the play was set, the audience would have been very shocked by what Macbeth did to Duncan as they had the divine right of kings. 

The divine right of kings would have meant that Duncan would have been the most important person on the Earth and Shakespeare shows us that disturbing the natural order is bad.  

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