This is part of my English paper on the role of the supernatural elements in Macbeth. It's not done yet, I still have a couple more examples to go through, but could you please tell me what you think of it so far? I know it's kind of long, but I would really appreciate it!Here are the directions:
Withing each act of Macbeth,
Shakespeare employs the element of the supernatural. Write a paper in which you analyze at least one apparition, or set of apparitions, that appears in each of the five acts. For each separate analysis, move beyond more literal meanings to consider the larger question of the purpose behind Shakespeare's dramatic use of each apparition. In what sense might they represent forces at work in the play beyond the will or imagination of an individual character? Did Shakespeare intend for each of these apparitions to embody a universal theme?Does Man Control His Destiny?
Throughout the Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, elements of the supernatural appear. When Shakespeare wrote the play, people tended to be much more superstitious than the are now. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth really would have believed the different illusions they saw and heard, while today they probably just would have thought the apparitions some sort of strange coincidences. But they does believe the apparitions. Macbeth believes in the witches' prophecies and apparitions, the floating dagger, and Banquo's ghost. Lady Macbeth believes she cannot wash Duncan's blood off of her hands. It is their trust in these supernatural things that leads to Macbeth's downfall in Act 5. Because Macbeth and Lady Macbeth believe in the apparitions and act accordingly because of them, the apparitions cause their deaths. Even though they think they are acting of their own accord and controlling their own destinies, they are not. Shakespeare's use of the supernatural elements in Macbeth show that man has no control over his own destiny.
The three witches are the first sign of the supernatural we see in Macbeth. They open the play, and through their actions it is obvious they are something more than human. The witches meet Macbeth first in scene three. This is when they give Macbeth his prophecies. "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!" (1.3.48-50) They tell Macbeth he is already Thane of Cawdor, and soon he shall also be King. When their statement about him being Thane of Cawdor turns out to be true, Macbeth sincerely believes in the witches' predictions. The realization that he will be King consumes him, and he immediately begins to think on how it will happen, even if it means killing Duncan. He lets the prophecy control his actions. He does not stop to think that maybe he will become King if he just sits back and lets it happen, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that he has to commit murder to get what he wants, or else it will not come to pass. He even kills his best friend Banquo, and tries to kill Banquo's son also, because the witches say Banquo, "...shall get kings, but be none." (1.3.67) The murders of Duncan and Banquo are what lead to Macbeth's growing insanity and eventual downfall later in the play. Macbeth lets the prophecies consume him and take over his destiny by twisting his actions around them.
Macbeth also puts too much stock into the second and third apparitions the witches show him in Act Four. The first apparition shows his own head cut form his body telling him to beware Macduff, the second, a bloody child, which says no man born of woman can harm Macbeth, and the third, a crowned child holding a sceptor who says Macbeth cannot be harmed until the whole country, form Birnam Wood to Dunsinane Hill come against him. The last image is a line of kings, one who carries a mirror with the image of Banquo in it. Macbeth comes to believe that he is invincible. Because "...none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth," (4.1.80-81) he thinks neither Macduff, nor anyone, can harm him, for everyone is woman born. Macbeth puts so much faith in this he does not take heed whatsoever to beware Macduff, and so sends murderers to kill Macduff's family. He also does not think he can ever die, because how can the woods come and rise up against him at his castle? Macbeth takes faith in the predictions he likes, and not the ones that predict his downfall. These apparitions now take hold of Macbeth, giving him a false sense of security. He makes hasty decisions without thinking about the consequences, because he believes there are none. But these hasty decisions are what finalize Macduff's resolve to kill Macbeth. Macbeth's security in some of the apparitions leads him to ignore the one he should. He makes decisions he would not have done if it were not for these illusions, and so they leave him helpless against his destiny.
The first time we see Macbeth not completely in his right mind is when he imagines a floating bloody dagger leading him to Duncan. He understands that what he is seeing cannot possible be real, yet he still takes faith in it, believing it is leading him to Duncan. Not stopping to think about why he sees the dagger; he simply assumes it means that killing Duncan is the right choice for him. The dagger is bloody because he should spill Duncan's blood. If Macbeth had stopped to think about it, he probably would have realized that seeing objects that are not there is really not a good thing, especially when those objects are leading you to kill someone. He may have come to the conclusion that it was his conscience making him feel guild and shame for what he was going to do. In that case he would not have killed Duncan. But he puts too much faith in the supernatural dagger he sees before him and kills Duncan, the deed that starts off the downward spiral to his death.