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Themes of Superstition in Macbeth

            Fate or free will? An endlessly debated concept. Do we make our own decisions, or are we simply "a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage"? (5.5.28). The debate continues in Shakespeare's dark play, Macbeth, as tragic Macbeth contemplates his fate and his role in his own demise. In the hopes of pleasing his witchcraft-loving King James I, Shakespeare adds the element of supernatural, and this addition gives the reader another angle to view the fate dilemma. Although the witches prophesy events that may or may not come true, Macbeth takes matters into his own hands. The two moments when the witches encounter Macbeth are moments of high emotion for Macbeth; the first occurs immediately following a stunning and violent victory, and the last amidst his descent into a cold-blooded tyrant. By appearing at moments when Macbeth is most vulnerable, Shakespeare mixes emotional drama with supernatural intervention, and leaves the reader to consider whether or not these additions clarify the debate.
             The weird sisters first encounter Macbeth when he is flush with victory, and genuinely proud to have served King Duncan so well. Their pronouncement of future titles namely Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland entices him to envision a future of power, yet it leaves the how for Macbeth to consider. When these supernatural forces are gone, Duncan bids Angus and Ross to greet Macbeth as "Thane of Cawdor," leading to his assumption that the three witches' prophecy of becoming King of Scotland will come true. Although Banquo cautions him about these dark happenings, Macbeth carelessly predicts that he will be crowned "without [his] stir" (1.4.159), remaining unwaveringly confident in the witches' prophecies that not only represents fate, but also the intrusion of the supernatural into his personal world. However, when King Duncan announces that his son Malcolm will be his successor, Macbeth allows his devilish wife and greed to consume him, driving him to commit a self-fulfilling prophecy and rid of his loving king.

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