Paradox In Macbeth Essay On Fate

Fate Or Choice Essay

Destiny is no matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved,” quoted by William Jennings Bryan. One of the most debated questions in history is whether our lives are ruled by fate or by own choice. William Shakespeare brings this question into play in his production Romeo and Juliet. Although fate does seam to be ruling over every situation, I believe that choice has more to do with this story then it’s really credited to. Even in the opening lines, this play drills into your head the inevitable outcome of the two lover’s deaths. When the chorus uses the phrase Star crossed lovers (I, 1,6) it clearly shows William Shakespeare’s thoughts on what killed Romeo and Juliet. This play shows that fate is in control, but I believe it was Romeo, Juliet’s, and even the Friar’s horrible choices to dragged them into that situation.

First of all, Romeo’s decisions were reckless from the beginning. When the servant asked Romeo to read the list of the invited people to the Capulet’s party, Romeo made the decision to go to that party even though he knew that the families hated each other, and he went completely knowing what might happen. Romeo also chose to continue seeing Juliet even though he knew that she was a Capulet. Fate seemed to have caused Mercutio to of been killed under Romeo’s arm by Tybalt “A curse upon both thy houses” (III,1, 101). But Romeo out of guilt chose to kill Tybalt in rage to revenge Mercutio’s death, knowing that Tybalt was his cousin. When Romeo says, “I am fortune’s fool” (III,1, 145) he tries to blame the fact that he killed Tybalt, on fortune instead of blaming himself. He says that Fortune tricked him into killing Tybalt. Romeo could have also stayed in Verona and faced the consequences of his actions instead of fleeing to Mantua. Lastly, when Romeo found out of “Juliet’s death” if he would of took some time to pray, or even thought of what he was going to do before resorting to suicide, he would have been in the tomb on time for the Friar to arrive and explain everything. I would have strongly suggested to Romeo to slow everything sown. If he would have taken some time just to stop and reflect many terrible things wouldn’t of happened.

     Likewise Juliet also made some irrational decisions. It was fate when Juliet was outside thinking on her balcony, and Romeo happened to be strolling outside also. One example of her irrational decisions was when Romeo was wooing her, she could have resisted, but she didn’t. And on the balcony scene, Juliet constantly questioned his love for her, and rushed him into marriage, by saying things like,...

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Macbeth Essay: Fate And Character In Macbeth, Or Why Macbeth Is A Heroic Character.

[This is a free sample essay on Macbeth. It is a college-level essay. For other essays on Macbeth, type ‘Macbeth’ into the search bar at the top of the page.]

In Greek tragedies, fate uses the hero’s stubborn belief in his ability to determine his own destiny in order to have him arrive at his fated end in a manner contrary to his will. Oedipus arrives at his fate by trying to escape it. Macbeth, however, arrives at his fate by trying to be responsible for his own fate. On the one hand, Macbeth has no control over his destiny, and is merely a pawn of fate. On the other hand, fate actually does use Macbeth’s own character to accomplish its ends, so in that sense he is not merely a pawn. Because he is not merely a pawn, he retains a certain responsibility for his actions, and because he retains responsibility, he retains something of his freedom. Another way of saying this is to say that Macbeth’s destruction is fated and yet Macbeth is also guilty. That sounds like a paradox, of course. And it is a paradox. In fact, tragedy is essentially paradoxical.

Oedipus Rex is another example of this paradoxical nature of tragedy. For in that play, Oedipus accepts responsibility for the crimes he was fated to commit. He pronounces himself guilty even though everything that the play tells us about his history suggests to us that he is innocent. But in accepting responsibility, Oedipus continues to defy fate, and in doing that he asserts his own freedom. To act freely means to act on the basis of one’s own decisions. It means to act in a way that is not predetermined by fate or providence.

Macbeth also takes on the responsibility of achieving his fate despite his being fated to achieve it, and he does this in advance of his achieving it. Such freedom is as ambiguous as Oedipus’ freedom. It is as ambiguous as Oedipus’s guilt. But it is also irreducible: it is an essential element of the play as a tragedy. In tragedy, the tragic outcome is a result of fate, but that doesn’t mean the hero’s character is entirely negated.

To put it another way: insofar as Macbeth’s destruction is a result of fate, it certainly appears that the play negates the hero’s character; but insofar as fate uses Macbeth’s character to achieve the outcome that is fated, we cannot say that the hero’s character is absolutely negated. And this is the paradox of the relation between fate and character in tragedy.

Let us clarify now how fate uses Macbeth’s character. One feature of Macbeth’s character is his disdain of fortune, and in the play “disdain of fortune” is essentially analogous to “disdain of fate.” To “distain” means, by the OED definition, “to think [something] unworthy of oneself, or of one's notice; to regard or treat [it] with contempt; to despise, scorn.” If fortune is analogous to fate, then Macbeth, in disdaining fortune, regards fate with scorn and contempt. He thinks fate is beneath him. That is to say, Macbeth thinks that he is not ruled by the law of fate. He doesn’t think he is the plaything of fate or fortune. And that means, again, that he imagines himself to be free.

His attitude to fate is ambivalent, however, insofar as he both acknowledges the existence of fate and disavows it at the same time. We can see his response to the witches’ first prediction (that he shall be king) in this light. He tries to take over responsibility for what is fated to him because he disdains fate. He entertains briefly the idea that he might be king without doing anything, but he quickly dismisses that idea. What he is entertaining here is the idea of leaving his character out of the equation, leaving his free will out of it, or just plain leaving his freedom out of it. That is what we do when we leave everything up to fate. To leave everything up to fate means being a pawn, or not being a character at all. It means being an automaton, or being something like a Banquo. Being like Banquo might result in being admired by pious moralizers, but my contention is that Shakespeare does not write for the satisfaction of pious moralizers. Banquo is a pawn, not a hero.

We should not imagine, then, that the play wants us to indulge in those self-satisfying, negative moral judgments of Macbeth’s desire to kill the king and usurp his throne. But we find these kinds of puerile judgments all the time in literary criticism. That kind of criticism tends to regard Shakespeare as a poet who was merely interested in confirming the moral and ideological prejudices of his time. It tends to read him as merely a spokesperson for state ideology. This is the problem of reading the play in terms of political history rather than in terms of literary history. The Norton introduction to the play reads Macbeth in its political context and imagines the hero to be a representative of a moral evil that needed to be overcome by imagined forces of good of which King James I, Shakespeare’s King, was the descendent. In this way, Shakespeare becomes a mouthpiece for contemporary state ideology. In terms of literary history, however, Macbeth is a powerful and admirable force. He embodies our desire to overcome the apparent fragility of our existence, the apparent weakness of our will, the apparent lack of human freedom. He embodies our desire to resist our fate as fate; to resist, in other words, whatever unknowable force pulls our strings.

Even though Macbeth’s desires are manipulated by fate, even though he goes after whatever fate tells him to, nonetheless he refuses the idea that what fate tells him will happen to him, will in fact happen to him because of fate. Instead, he scorns fate, and decides that what will be his, will in fact be his by virtue of his own will. If ultimately he is mistaken in this attempt, the attempt itself is what makes him admirable, and is what essentially makes him a character worthy of our attention, and up to a point, short of regicide presumably, worthy of emulation.


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