Discuss the role of the supernatural in determining the fate of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Act 1. In the play “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare, the supernatural is given a significant role in influencing the lives of two of the main characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. This can be seen all throughout Act 1 where the supernatural is presented in forms of witches, spells, prophecies and spirits. The supernatural indirectly determines the fate of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and does give apparent justifications to their aspirations and desires.
Macbeth’s first encounter with the witches unveils his true intentions and gives us a taste of his ugly greed and ambitions. This can be clearly seen in Act 1 Scene 3 when the witches refer to Macbeth as the “Thane of Glamis”, “Thane of Cawdor” and “the king hereafter”. This causes Macbeth to question their “strange intelligence” as they have no legitimate proof of what they have stated. However, Macbeth is curious and interested in what they are saying because even though he refers to them as “imperfect speakers”, he still wants to know more and tells them to go on.
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This highlights the fact that Macbeth is considering his options and may take some actions based on what he hears. Macbeth starts to seriously reflect upon what the witches said after he is granted the title of being the “Thane of Cawdor” as that was something he didn’t expect. However, even without the witch’s influence we do get an insight of Macbeth’s intents when he ponders about what may lay in the future. This is clearly evident when he refers to his feelings about murder as if it makes his “seated heart knock at my [Macbeth’s] ribs”.
This demonstrates that he is in fact excited about the assassination and that it is well under his consideration. Lady Macbeth is reassured and also rejoices in the idea of Macbeth being king as is stated from his letter. This is clearly evident when Macbeth refers to the witches reciting “Hail, king that shalt be” in his letter in Act 1 Scene 5. This “supernatural soliciting” gives them hope and something to look forward to. They feel relieved and confident because they know they are going to win that title/ position and this assurance gives them a boost, hich will make them go to any length to do so. This is scene is the first time that Lady Macbeth has been mentioned and it noticeably distinguishes her character. This is obvious when she prays to the spirits by using chants like “unsex me here”, “of direst cruelty”, “take my milk for gall” etc. This proves that she wants to go forward with the plan but she is afraid of her feminine side. From this we can understand that she is someone with great ambition and is also aware of her weak sides.
We can also deduce that they look upon the supernatural, as some kind of savior or fortuneteller. She wants to get rid of all her “feminine” emotions so that she can encourage and go forward with the assassination. Furthermore, she is someone who likes to take responsibilities and can carry out orders, which is evident by her saying “Leave all the rest to me” to Macbeth. Last of all, the author uses personifications like “nature’s mischief” and “my keen knife see not the wound” to better convey his message.
By giving human qualities to inanimate objects, the author is able to capture the reader’s attention and better reveal the true nature of Lady Macbeth. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth want to take their plan into action when the king comes to visit them in their castle but Macbeth hesitates at first and this slows them down a little. Macbeth reconsiders his actions because he is starting to realize some of the consequences that they would have to face. This is evident when he tells Lady Macbeth to “proceed no further in this business” so that later they wouldn’t have to pay for it.
However, Lady Macbeth does not see anything wrong with this assassination and insults Macbeth for his cowardice and tells him “when you durst do it, then you were a man” in Act 1 Scene 7. In this particular scene, we can clearly note the difference between both these bold characters. Lady Macbeth is very eager to gain the power and position that will come upon them when they gain that title. She will go to any extent, any length for it and won’t take no for an answer. This is the reason why she becomes so disappointed when Macbeth doesn’t want to continue and this is exemplified when she asks, “Was the hope drunk? On the other hand, Macbeth is not as determined as Lady Macbeth to gain that title but nonetheless follows her lead, which proves that he is both daring and ambitious but also conscious. This is clearly demonstrated when he asks, “If we should fail? ” which proves that he does fear of the aftermath or the consequences of the assassination. In conclusion, the supernatural does not only indirectly determine their fate but also acts as means of support or encouragement for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth whenever they need to step forward.
The author also uses foreshadowing because the first time that Macbeth enters he says “So four and fair a day I have not seen” in Act 1 Scene 3 and this is the same as what the witches chant “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” in the beginning of the play. This gives us a vague hint that something bad might happen but is not confirmed. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s intentions and character is also exposed in this Act where we can deduce that they are taking their steps very carefully and definitely moving forward with the assassination.