The Supernatural Events in Macbeth
A supernatural occurrence is described as an event or thing that are assumed to come from beyond or to originate from otherworldly forces and cannot be explained by reason or science. The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare is a tragedy that highlights the danger of too much ambition without moral consciousness through the development of Macbeth’s character. The plot of the drama explores topics including, corrupt power and tyranny, gender stereotypes and the role of masculinity, and the use of faith and belief as a source of motivation.
Also incorporated throughout the play are various supernatural and mythical occurrences, these are portrayed as witches, ghost, prophecies, and other examples. These Supernatural events are included in Macbeth, because of their contribution to the overall theme, and because of their relevance to each character depending on how much they believe in them. Shakespeare uses these events to highlight existing qualities in Macbeth and to show how these qualities are intensified when Macbeth is exposed to them. Some of these qualities can be identified as ambitious, greedy, malevolent, and destructive which all become exacerbated throughout the book and help show the development of Macbeth’s character.
The first mention of mythical events is at the very start of the play. It opens on page 17 to the witches huddled in a circle conversing with each other, until Macbeth and Banquo enter the scene. Each witch shouts a line at the two men “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis! / All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! / All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” (1.3.51-53). This information becomes the newly formed prophecy which predicts that Macbeth will become, the Thane of Glamis, Cawdor, and future king. The two men are immediately confused and startled, why should they believe this nonsense? Only because prior to this scene, the play reveals that Macbeth was to be named Thane of Cawdor in a few short minutes, confirming the legitimacy of this mysterious prophecy. This is the very beginning of Macbeth’s strong desire for success. Here, in the beginning, Macbeth’s character is naive and passive. When the supernatural prediction begins to come true by naming him Thane of Glamis and Cawdor he says “Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor. If good, why do I yield to that suggestion/…My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, / Shakes so my single state of man / That function is smothered in surmise, / And nothing is but what is not” / (1.3.146-155). Macbeth asks himself why he is feeling bad if something good is happening. He talks here about how the thought of these goals as just a fantasy. It shows his true naivety when he speaks about committing murder, he explains how the mere thought “Shakes so my single state of man” (1.3.153). It seems here as if Macbeth would never commit such a horrible act because just the thought of it gravely scares him, this portrays Macbeth’s character now before the development begins. He doesn’t know yet the extent that his future self will go to, to achieve his goals.
After the prophecy is introduced Macbeth is urged to take drastic measure and murder Duncan for his benefit. Even though he has doubts occasionally, he eventually does the deed and kills King Duncan. After this Macbeth becomes even more confident and convinces a couple assassins to kill Banquo. He tells them “Fleance, his son, that keeps him company, / Whose absence is no less material to me / Than is his father’s, must embrace the fate / Of that dark hour. Resolve yourselves apart. / I’ll come to you anon” (3.2.154-158). Now Macbeth is plotting to murder more people in comparison to him before being shaken up by the mere thought of it. Not only has he murdered one person, but he is also now conspiring another homicide and is becoming insane, all because of the prophecy that he is so fixated on. He becomes determined to make it come true no matter what it takes.
Jumping ahead in the play to when the witches reappear, there is already a huge shift in his personality he has now not only killed Duncan to fulfill prophecy but has also murdered Banquo and Macduff’s family in a bloody rage. His personality has grown power hungry, desperate, even described as mentally ill. His descent into madness is displayed in his second encounter with the witches, he orders them to “answer [him]. / Though you untie the winds and let them fight. / Against the churches, though the yeasty waves. / Confound and swallow navigation up, / Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down, / Though castles topple on their warders’ heads /…Even till destruction sicken, answer [him]./ To what [he] ask[s] [them]” (4.1.52-64). Macbeth commands them to tell him everything they know and has no regard to what the consequences are including unleashing violent winds, tearing down churches, etc. He doesn’t care what it takes but he demands that they tell him his future once more. This is a huge character shift from the previous Macbeth who was scared of the thought of murder. This change is primarily due to the original prophecy and its effects, it made him yearn for power so much so that he would do anything to get it. This greed and selfishness shaped his character to become a vile human being. He had so much fixation on these events that the obsession is bringing out his inner evil and morphing his mental-state.
After Macbeth’s outburst with the witches they do end up telling him what happened he finds out that he will never be harmed by “none of woman born” (4.1.91) and he will never be defeated until “Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him” (4.1.106-107). Macbeth now puts a lot of faith into the prophecy and inflates his ego to the point where he thinks nobody will ever defeat him. In his mind it makes sense, a forest will never uproot and move and no human is not born of a woman. In his mind, this makes him invincible. This ego inflation results in another personality transformation, he becomes the most arrogant, and irrational man who believes he is immortal and will never die. He announces “Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane / I cannot taint with fear. What’s the boy Malcolm? / Was he not born of woman? The spirits that know / All mortal consequences have pronounced me thus: / ‘Fear not, Macbeth. No man that’s born of woman’” (5.3.3-6) Macbeth’s newfound smugness compels him to talk to others like so as if he has nothing to fear. Macbeth’s tone here is representative of how the prophecy leads him to become conceded. His reliance on the prophecy makes him to continue to believe that he fears nothing until “Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane” or he meets “a man not born of woman” This prophecy is what primarily affects Macbeth’s character to be this way because it gives him confidence that nothing will happen to him until impossible events take place.
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