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by William Shakespeare

Macbeth Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line) from the Folger Shakespeare Library

Quote #7

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use. (2.1.44-55)

"The dagger made me do it" isn't a defense we've heard before, but it seems to work for Macbeth. Look at that "Come, let me clutch thee": it sounds a lot like he doesn't have a choice.

Quote #8

        If't be so, 
For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind,
For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered,
Put rancors in the vessel of my peace
Only for them, and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings.
Rather than so, come fate into the list,
And champion me to th' utterance! (3.1.69-77)

Well, this is interesting. Here, Macbeth is calling fate to his aid, asking it to "champion" him, or fight for him, in the "lists," or the tournament grounds. This doesn't sound like a fate-or-free-will situation; it sounds like a fate-and-free-will deal.

Quote #9

Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care
Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are. 
Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him. [Descends]

                      That will never be.
Who can impress the forest, bid the tree
Unfix his earthbound root? Sweet bodements, good!
Rebellious head, rise never till the Wood
Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth
Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath
To time and mortal custom. (4.1.103-114)

When Macbeth comes knocking on the three witches' doors again, he wants another glimpse into his future. They give him riddles. (Thanks, gals.) But look at those riddles: they're designed so Macbeth interprets them to mean that he's safe, which obviously affects his decision-making. Is his death fate? Or is just savvy manipulation?

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