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“Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going” - Does Macbeth kill Duncan of his own free will?

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Introduction

Free Will "Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going" Does Macbeth kill Duncan of his own free will? If one were to begin to read the play at the point when Macbeth was reciting his dagger Soliloquy just before he was to murder King Duncan, they'd almost certainly arrive at the conclusion that Macbeth undertook this unaided action of brutally murdering his King, completely of his own free-will. But if one was to read the play, from the beginning, and continue to read it to the end, a completely different conclusion could be reached, as we observe that there are also two other strong external forces which could have caused Macbeth to kill Duncan; the three witches and/or Lady Macbeth. To be able to successfully conclude whether Macbeth did indeed kill Duncan of his own Free Will, it is first necessary to define what is meant by the term free will. The Oxford dictionary states free will to be 'the power of acting without the constraint or necessity of fate or the ability to act at one's own discretion'. This means in the context of the play, that the action of Macbeth stabbing the king must be undertaken without interference from external parties (i.e. only he has control over what he is doing at that moment), such as the emotional and sexual blackmail of Lady Macbeth or the supernatural force of fate symbolized (and possibly controlled) by the witches. (Fate is the power of events being predetermined unalterably.) So if I am firstly to look at the possibility of Macbeth's actions being controlled by the witches. This play was written in the early 17th century (1606), during the reign of King James I who ruled both England and Scotland. King James I was a man who believed passionately that witches did exist, and that they caused evil that affected everyone in his kingdom. ...read more.

Middle

If we look at the passage between the two opposite stances of Macbeth of the act of killing the King, we see that Lady Macbeth is attempting to belittle Macbeth as much as possible, by calling a brave soldier such as Macbeth "...a coward in thine own esteem (I.vii.43)". But the most effective bit of blackmail, came when Lady Macbeth showed the extent of her devotion towards her husband by telling him in graphic detail, the lengths she'd go to just to carry out a promise which she'd made towards him. She said that if she had promised to Macbeth that she'd kill their baby, she would pluck it from her breast while she was breastfeeding it, and smash its head against a table. "Lady Macbeth: And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you (I.vii.58)" But although this is a compelling argument, is it enough by itself for Lady Macbeth's persuasions to her husband to deprive him of his free will and to cause him to kill King Duncan? She was the last person to talk to Mabeth before the killing of Duncan. Also to tie this in with the witches' argument, in I.v, Lady Macbeth is seen to allow evil spirits within her body "Lady Macbeth: ...Come you spirits (I.vii.58)" This could mean that another supernatural force is acting upon Macbeth, causing him to kill King Duncan, as Lady Macbeth's influence on Macbeth could be yet more evil sorcery. Finally there is the possibility that it was in fact Macbeth's own free-will which caused him to kill King Duncan. This would mean the presence of fate in this play, which is indicated by the witches, doesn't actually exist, and their possible foretelling of the future at various stages in the book, are just guesses which happens to come true as Macbeth believes in them so much that he makes them become true. ...read more.

Conclusion

in this case the witches). The final battle between Macbeth and those wishing to dethrone him, seems to indicate more so that it was actually the witches and the supernatural force of fate that was associated with them was what was governing Macbeth, not his own free-will. Firstly, if we look at the three new prophecies which the witches gave to Macbeth. The first prophecy, beware of Macduff, Thane of Fife. This was an accurate prophecy, as it was Macduff who slay Macbeth. The second was no man born from a woman could harm him. Once again this was an accurate, as Macduff was born by a Caesarian Section. And finally he would only die when Great Birnham Wood moves to Dunsinane hill. This did in fact happen as the opposing army to Macbeth, cut down the trees in Great Birnham Wood and used them to hide their true numbers on Dunsinane hill. Although the first two prophecies could be affected by Macbeth, as he could fear Macduff because of both of the prophecies applying to Macduff that he'd be unable to battle him, the third prophecy wouldn't be known unless they could see into the future. And by seeing into the future accurately indicates that fate is present, meaning that free will is not being used by Macbeth. In conclusion, from all of the above analysis of the text, I firstly conclude that Lady Macbeth did not deprive Macbeth of his free-will. This is due to two main reasons. Firstly just before the killing, it does seem that she manages to persuade him to kill Duncan, but as I will explain later, I believe that at this point he did not have control of his free-will. Also because she becomes insane later in the play and Macbeth doesn't, this leads to the second point that is she a strong enough character to control Macbeth's actions, where as in fact it could have been possible that Macbeth's character was in fact manipulating her. Sunil Bajaj 11 Latymer Macbeth English Coursework Mr Savin - 1 - ...read more.

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