The fraudulent prophecy of the witches and Macbeth’s final realization about that are the two most discussed facts in The Tragedy of Macbeth. It is undeniably true that the presence of the witches sets the tone of all actions and reactions in the play.
Yes, the witches’ false forecasts shape the main character’s journey in the play from the beginning to the end. It clearly shows how the deceit recoils on the deceiver after appearing with a false promise at the initial stage to help the tragic hero prosper. However, the evil witchcraft of the sorceresses gets exposed with Macbeth’s final realization.
The Tragedy of Macbeth is perhaps the only Shakespearean drama that profoundly relates to evil and deceptions. From the beginning, this play uncovers how these immoral things can survive with a pure ambiguity clouding reality.
It is a proven fact that evil always acts with deception. Likewise, the evil in Macbeth responds to another evil lurking outside as witches’ words. Like all other wicked things, the sorceresses lie to the tragic hero by offering mundane prosperity. The truth is, the act of false promise is a part of creating a deceitful atmosphere to tempt humans. It is a trap to make people believe in distorted facts.
As a human being, Macbeth is also the victim to enter that trap. Bearing the same fate as other tragic heroes, he, too, is blind to the realities. Although, his companion Banquo easily recognizes the actual nature of the witches. His words uncover evil’s true nature when he says:
“What! Can the Devil speak true?
………And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of Darkness tell us truths;
Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
In deepest consequence.” (Act I, Scene iii)
But, on the other hand, the tragic hero, Macbeth, believes unconditionally in witches’ words. And, it is that belief, which compels him to take immoral actions. He proceeds desperately to enter into a fatal quagmire, and this process goes on till he reaches the point of no return. The tempting call of prosperity misleads him to get an extreme level from where recovery is impossible.
Moreover, his belief in the prophecies is very much alive till the end. The only time he begins to realize that the words of the sorceresses can be a part of their evil sorcery is when the Birnam wood supposedly moves towards the Dunsinane. Macbeth’s comments make it evident that he is standing in a situation of ambiguity.
“I pull in resolution and begin
To doubt th’ equivocation of the fiend
That lies like truth”
However, Macbeth’s final realization about the false promises of the witches still faces some obstacles when he implicitly believes the last prophecy. According to this last distorted prediction, Macbeth can only be in a threatening situation from a person “who is not born of a woman.” The painful and surprising fact is even after having an ambiguous feeling, the tragic hero thinks that these fallacious words can still be true. But his illusion gets fried when Macduff discloses that he is a perfect fit for the role of a man who is not “born of a woman.”
With Macduff’s revelation, the mist is now gone. And, Macbeth realizes his all missteps. He utters:
“And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense;
That keep the word of promise to our ear,
……..break it to our hope. I’ll not fight with thee.”
The tragic hero, at last, understands that the evil creatures are no more believable. He can now study the word game, hidden in the false prophecies. His hope is no more capable enough to fight against reality.
The sequence of consequences is complete. It is now clear that the movement of the Birnam wood, in reality, signifies the robust movement of the opponent soldiers. Also, “not born of a woman” indicates the birth that occurs not in a natural way. These inner meanings show how words of the evil creatures are not limited to a single meaning.
The sequence has made one thing very explicit: people who tend to contain evil motives can be duped and enmeshed quickly in the shackles of tricky, fatal situations. Moreover, it is hard to find a recovery way out from this position.
Macbeth’s words, “break it to our hope. I’ll not fight with thee.” manifest his pain of conscience. He is so drained with the burden of sinful doings that he doesn’t possess any more mental strength to fight for ownself. But it is too late, and even if he is no more ready to fight, he still has to face the consequences.
So Macbeth’s final realization, no doubt, creates an unbearable aching in his heart. His plan to enter into the trap of temptation by restraining his conscience is an act of severe crime. And he can’t get away from his act’s consequences.