Equivocation and Free Choice in Macbeth

Essay by danozHigh School, 12th gradeA+, January 2005

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Tragedy to the ancient Greeks included fate or the gods presenting man with an unavoidable destiny. In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Shakespeare's witches give voice to Macbeth's destiny. However, the unfolding action demonstrates not the inevitability of fate, but Macbeth's own role in what takes place. By establishing an equivocal use of opposing images, Shakespeare enhances his development of the conflict between fate and man's choice. The continual conflict is designed to keep the tension heightened and prepare the reader/viewer for the effects this has on the mind and destiny of man.

The blending of right and wrong, good and evil, and a general equivocal position begins with the ominous appearance of the witches in Act I, Scene 1 of the play. For Shakespeare they serve the role of the Greek gods in ancient tragedy. With their comments "the battle's lost and won" (Macbeth I.i.8) and "Fair is foul and foul is fair" (I.i.11),

we are prepared for the equivocal uneasiness that pervades the entire work. When Banquo describes the witches saying "you should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so" (I.iii.45-47), the overall effect of the eeriness and disturbing picture they are to present is completed. Banquo shows perceptive insight into the role the witches serve and their potential affecting of the lives of both he and Macbeth when he says:

But 'tis strange;

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,

The instruments of darkness tell us truths,

Win us with honest trifles, to betray 's

In deepest consequence. (I.iii.122-125)

Banquo here demonstrates a knowledge of the dangers and consequences facing him and Macbeth as they are confronted with a tantalizing hint of a bright future without a full picture.

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