The weird sisters speaks to Macbeth’s desires, but they do not decide Macbeth’s fate (Noone, 2010:31). The witches have no power over Macbeth’s will and actions, they only tempt him and plant seeds of destruction. It is Macbeth who needs to decide whether he will act on his desires and allow the seeds of evil to germinate. A link is created between the three witches and Macbeth when the witches say, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (1. 1.11) and Macbeth’s opening line is: “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” (1. 3.37). This echo shows the connection between the witches and Macbeth. Macbeth is their next victim and knowing his ambitions, their only objective is to persuade Macbeth to evil. When Macbeth and Banquo are confronted by the weird sisters’ desirable prophecies, Macbeth is immediately filled with the temptation to which Macbeth succumbs (Ribner, 1959: 152). This means the initial impulse of evil comes from Macbeth and his ambitions takes hold of him after he is announced Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth’s awakened desires immediately leads him to action- he must murder King Duncan. Instead of dismissing the claims of the witches like Banquo, Macbeth immediately resolves to the violent act of murder to make the prophecies a reality. At this point he is only thinking about murder, saying: “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical” (1. 3.138). This thought should immediately be erased, but he does not which shows his burning desires and the effect of the witches on his meek mind (Favila, 2001:9). Macbeth easily succumbs to his dark desires. The witches feeds his reckless ambitions and touches on his deepest desires and greed that was already present in Macbeth.
Macbeth’s ambitions has taken on a life of its own but fear, confusion and loyalty to the king causes Macbeth to be hesitant. Lady Macbeth propels him to act and seals King Duncan’s death. Lady Macbeth becomes Macbeth’s own “instrument of darkness” by seducing him in his choice to succumb to evil (which is his choice alone to make). Lady Macbeth stands against the forces within Macbeth that are opposed to evil (Ribner, 1959:153). Lady Macbeth challenges Macbeth’s manhood and taunts him with a disturbing image of a mother killing her baby. This turns Macbeth’s loyalty and honour to the king into a disloyalty towards his wife. Favila (2001:11) claims this image unites husband and wife, because if the wife can kill her son then Macbeth can kill the king. Lady Macbeth sends Macbeth over the brink of fear and loyalty to the king. Macbeth brakes all the ties that bind him to humanity and joins forces with evil. Even though Lady Macbeth is the mastermind behind the murder of the king, Macbeth is the murderer. Macbeth allows his desires to control his thoughts and actions (Favila, 2001:12). After Macbeth kills King Duncan a path of fear, more murders and Macbeth’s own destruction awaits him.
Macbeth’s feelings of revulsion towards his evil ambitions slowly deteriorates. Macbeth becomes a vessel of his own desires and is overcome with his need to be powerful. Macbeth realises the only way to secure his throne is to kill those who stand in his way including the part in himself that contains honour and guilt (Favila, 2001:15). Macbeth kills Banquo to secure his throne, because Macbeth has fully embraced the prophecies and desires of his heart. Macbeth is now able to function without the help of his wife and completely relies on his own schemes and thoughts. Macbeth’s conscience arises in the form of Banquo’s ghost which taunts him and traps him in his self-judgement and guilt. Macbeth becomes a slave to his desire for the throne and has to kill to cover up his tracks and in the process he kills his own human attributes and is instead filled with “slaughterous thoughts” (5. 5.14). Macbeth turns to the witches for security and to calm his fear of punishment in the future (Favila, 2001:16). He is unable to extinguish the human force of fear and the “scorpions” in his mind. He needs the witches’ prophecy to feel secure. Unfortunately, they tell half-truths which Macbeth misinterprets. This leads him to believe he cannot be killed, because every man is born of women and Birnan Wood cannot move to Dunsinane. The prophecy causes Macbeth to descend into utter madness wherein he kills Macduff’s family. Macbeth claims he “forgot the taste of fear” (5. 5.9) and is lured into a false sense of security. Macbeth is arrogant until his final moments and in the end dies, fulfilling the prophecy of the witches.
Macbeth is responsible for his own destiny and chose to succumb to his deep desires. The three witches’ prophecies only manifests his desires (Noone, 2010:31). They cannot control his actions, but it is up to Macbeth to respond to the promises they excite. Lady Macbeth mothered Macbeth’s confidence to murder the king which starts an unstoppable chain of actions to proceed and ends with the death of Macbeth. Macbeth was an honourable hero, but his choice of evil shattered his bright future. His ambitions took over his sense of morality and this leads to total destruction. Macbeth consumed with his ambitions causes his own downfall and certainly has only himself to blame.
Favila, M. (2001). Modern Philology. “Mortal Thoughts” and Magical Thinking in “Macbeth”. [Online] 99(1). p.1-25. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/439153. [Accessed: 23 April 2014].
Noone, K. (2010). Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. Shakespeare in Discworld: Witches, Fantasy, and Desire. 21(10). p.26-40.
Ribner, I. (1959). Shakespeare Quarterly. Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action. [Online] 10(2). p.147-159. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2866920. [Accessed: 23 April 2014].
(Disclaimer: This is the intellectual property of Nikki Leibbrandt. Plagiarism is illegal.)