Supernatural Forces Cause The Fall Of Macbeth

Essay, Research Paper In Shakespeare s “Macbeth” supernatural forces create a suspenseful atmosphere. The use of the supernatural in the witches, the visions, the ghost and the apparitions provides the

Essay, Research Paper

In Shakespeare s “Macbeth” supernatural forces create a suspenseful atmosphere. The use

of the supernatural in the witches, the visions, the ghost and the apparitions provides the

backbone of the climax and “excuses” for Macbeth s change of character. Because

conscience plays such a central role in Macbeth s tragic struggle, many critics use spiritual

and supernatural theories to illuminate the drama s character development.

The play opens with the use of the supernatural when three witches encounter Macbeth on

his way home from a battle and proceed to predict his fate. This gives the audience a

glimpse of the path the play will follow. The witches plan to meet again, “When the battles

(battle is) lost and won ” (I. I. 1-4). This theme becomes recurring throughout the play. It

can be noted that the witches meet after every battle is lost and won, and every battle,

whether man against man, man against nature or man against himself it will always be lost

by one side and won by another. Eventually Macbeth will lose the battle for his soul.

Literary critic, Charles Lamb quotes, “When we read the incantations of the Witches in

Macbeth, though some of the ingredients of their hellish composition savour of the

grotesque, yet is the effect upon us other than the most serious and appalling that can be

imagined? Do we not feel spell-bound as Macbeth was?” (Lamb). After the witches reveal

the fate of Macbeth becoming king, he begins to develop an immoral plan to carry out the

prophecy. The only way for Macbeth to have the throne will be to wait or to kill King

Duncan. Macbeth already knew of his future as king due to the witches forecast of his

future, so how he went about getting there did not concern Macbeth. Had the three sisters

not confronted Macbeth with the news of his possible future would he have thought of a

deviant plan to murder King Duncan, and better yet, would he have had a future as a king

at all? Another critic of Shakespearean Literature believes “Their (the witches) two

appearances divide the tragedy in two movements, the one of which unfolds the crime, and

other as punishment.” (Snider 289) If you refer back to the text you will find just as the

witches appear before Macbeth the first time, the plot to murder King Duncan begins and

immediately after the second visitation, the events leading to Macbeth s death take place.

Had the three witches not encountered Macbeth that day, would Duncan still be alive? The

three sisters held the power of motivating Macbeth to kill Duncan by planting the idea in

his head that he could be king.

The “ghostly” dagger, which led Macbeth to Duncan s chamber, also represents the

supernatural forces that cause the fall of Macbeth. “His benumbed isolation before, during

and right after Duncan s murder is one of the most vivid memories, and we can see him in

the same abstraction again among the mourners after Duncan is found.” (Manyard 62)

Macbeth s memories of the murder of King Duncan were too cloudy for him to remember

because the disillusionment and distraction of the knife influenced him to go through with

killing Duncan. Macbeth followed the bloody dagger to Duncan s room and even thought

twice about murdering the king. Manyard also states “Shakespeare emphasizes the

visibility of the dagger, partly, I suppose, because it is an instrument of powers that will

repeatedly – with blood, daggers, ghosts, and every insidious form of apparition- work on

Macbeth s sight and partly too because its appearance at this moment defines with

characteristic ambiguity the complex kinds of sources of experience to which Macbeth as a

tragic hero is sensitive.” (Manyard 70) Macbeth exhibits sensitivity towards what he does

not understand or comprehend. These strange occurrences bring forth Macbeth s

uncertainty of the unnatural, causing his character to have two paths to travel down: the

right one or the wrong one. The floating dagger along with emotions and adrenaline

coaxed Macbeth to the murder. Had he not encountered dagger, he wouldn t have ever

traveled up the stairs to Duncan s chamber.

Banquo s ghost is yet another paranormal experience Macbeth encounters, and also the

one that sent Macbeth over the edge. Author Ludwig Jekels felt that “the poet dramatizes,

with wonderful clarity, the fear of the son (Banquo) now the father, upon confronting, in

his own son (Macbeth), the same hostility that he (Macbeth) had harbored on his own

father (Duncan).” (Jekels 227) Banquo s ghost returned to torture Macbeth indefinitely.

Eventually, the ghost drives Macbeth to his own, unintended, self-destruction. In act 3,

scene 4, lines 112-115 Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth, “Can such things be and overcome

us like a summers cloud, without our special wonder? You make me strange even to the

disposition that owe (my own nature).” (3.4.112-115) After all Macbeth has been through

at this point, the witches and apparitions, he still can t grasp his connection to the

supernatural. This proves that Macbeth fell under the influence of the supernatural without

knowing. Accredited author J. L. F. Flathe quotes,

“But we are constrained to ask, what devil gives the devil such power over this poor devil

Macbeth that he is so immediately led astray, while we see, in the case of Banquo, that any

man who chooses can easily withstand the devil?” (Flathe 200) Any given person s human

nature tempts them to take an easier path if shown the way. Some people exhibit more

hardworking and honest traits than others. Macbeth was deceitful and dishonest, therefore

following the path of the devil. Macbeth suffered the consequences of his actions by death.

Though Banquo also suffered consequences of honesty, his heirs benefited in the long run

by inheriting the crown.

Macbeth s decisions were influenced by supernatural encounters, causing him to tragically

meet a doomed fate. These paranormal experiences and influences caused Macbeth to

choose certain paths, only to lead him to self-destruction. Had the witches, ghosts, and

visions not occurred throughout the play, what other courses would have been walked to

lead him to his ill-fated destiny? Without the guidance of these forces, Macbeth s fate

would have been altered and the plot would be non-existent.