Saturday, December 22, 2012

Macbeth: Fatalism versus Free-will

One of the debates within Macbeth is the idea of fatalism and freewill. According to the Renaissance, Macbeth chooses his own path in live, and he is responsible for it. On the contrary, he is possessed by the Devil which forces him to commit his sins according to the medieval thoughts. That is, the play raises two contrast views around Macbeth's responsibility for his deeds.

On one hand, Macbeth appears to be a victim of the other's control of him. In other words, Macbeth may be seen as a victim of the witches' power and conspiracy. For instance, their evil potion for the sailor, with which they aim to make him sleep "neither night nor day", applies also to Macbeth. Likewise, he loses comfort after killing the King, proving that he is a tragic hero by some critics. This is reinforced with the first appearance of Macbeth. Immediately, he echoes the witches' words, "So foul and fair a day." So, some critics think that he may be affected by the evil spirit of the witches.

Like the witches, Lady Macbeth tries to push Macbeth to commit the crime of killing King Duncan. She is more ambitious and ruthless than her husband and knows that she has to manipulate her husband into acting on the witches' prophecy. When Macbeth is hesitant to murder Duncan, she goads him by questioning his manhood. Although Macbeth is a brave soldier, she pushes him to kill Duncan using his weak point which is his pride.

Macbeth gets the audience's pity when he appears at the end as a weak person who cannot cease to be strongly affected by the prophecies of the witches. Close to the end of the play, Hecate, the queen of the witches, becomes angry because the witches does not consult her about their conspiracy against Macbeth. This means that Macbeth's life is conspired by the witches. Moreover, he feels a false sense of security because they tell him that he will not be defeated till the wood of Birnam moves towards Dunissance. However, his depend on the supernatural to direct the course of his life leads to his end.

Contrary to the previous opinion, some critics believe that Macbeth is responsible for his actions. For instance, the witches may be seen as the inner thoughts of Macbeth. That is, he has the seeds of evil nature inside him, so he may imagine them. Moreover, even if the witches are real, their prophecies are just suggestion and do not tell him clearly to kill the King. Thus, they do do not have the same effect on Banquo who says that they are agents of evil and like to make conspiracies against human beings. Later on, the first thing he thinks about after King Duncan names his heir is to kill the King. In one of his soliloquies, he confesses that he wants stars to hide his "black and deep desires". Furthermore, Lady Macbeth murmurs that she knows Macbeth is over-ambitious.

At the same time, Macbeth is strongly conscious of the gravity of act of regicide. He acknowledges that "bloody instructions" come back to trouble the person who thinks of them. However, he initiate this cycle of crime when he kill King Duncan despite his complete knowledge that this wrong. That is, he commits the crime of Banquo only out of his jealousy, saying "Stick deep, and his royalty of nature / Reign that which would be feared." Yet, he kills Macduff's family without any reason but to satisfy his evil nature.

In conclusion, the idea of a moral order is present in Macbeth, but in muted form. Macbeth knows what he does is wrong, and he recognizes that there will surely be consequences. As in his soliloquy, he reveals his awareness that he may be initiating a cycle of violence that eventually destroys him. Macbeth is not a good man at this point in the play, but he is not yet an evil one; he is tempted, and he tries to resist temptation. Macbeth's resistance, however, is not vigorous enough to stand up to his wife's ability to manipulate him.