After meeting the Weird Sisters and being told the prophecy of becoming King, Macbeth is caught in a quandary, he speculates that, “This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good.” He doesn’t know what to make of what has been promised him, yet he is in love with the idea of becoming king, as he coyishly reminds himself, “Glamis and Thane of Cawdor, the greatest is behind.” He mentions that he has, “Learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge.” The Weird Sisters hailed him Thane of Cawdor prior to his official gaining of that second title. Recollecting that the Weird Sisters had acknowledged both his titles, Macbeth boastfully proclaims, “Two truths are told as happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme.” He subsequently writes home to his wife, Lady Macbeth, to tell her that the Weird Sisters saluted him with, “Hail King that shalt be.” But immediately upon reading his letter, she begins to doubt his resolve, “Yet do I fear thy nature, it is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” She then adds the chilling invocation to, “Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valor of my tongue.” She is not about to let the opportunity to be Queen slip through her fingers.
Moving on to the subject of superstition; Merriam Webster defines the word as: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. Macbeth suffers from a most dangerous form of superstition: a firm faith in regal destiny (originating from the divination of “witches”) coupled with an insatiable lust for instant power from the cunningly calculating Lady Macbeth. Chaucer’s maxim, “Haste maketh waste,” will never ring more true. After Lady Macbeth has received the letter detailing the prophecy of her husband becoming king, and Macbeth henceforth returns home, she wants the assassination of the King carried out literally that same night. Macbeth is so conspicuously bewildered by this that it gets Lady Macbeth to deride him thus: “Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men may read strange matters.” The thought of murder does actually occur to Macbeth before he speaks with his wife, “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,” But it sickens Macbeth so deeply that the very next thing that comes out of his mouth is, “If chance will have me King, why chance may crown me without my stir.” Unfortunately Macbeth’s thoughts are so monopolized by his wife’s ambition, that he has no chance to acquaint her with his philosophy. Although Macbeth is a murderer, for he commits the crime of murder and more than once, he is not a completely self-made one. It is Lady Macbeth’s unrelenting persuasion and Macbeth’s sincere belief in Lady Macbeth’s love and devotion to him.
His credulity concerning the supernatural ultimately spells his doom.
In the end he does finally reject the Weird Sisters, “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 and break it to our hope.” Unfortunately for Macbeth this realization comes too late, much too late. His tragedy is one of DELUSIONAL hope; hope grounded in striving to attain something that would actually come easily if his crown were acquired honestly. To borrow a template from Merchant; the quality of hope is not strained. Like walking into a poker game at the Golden Nugget; if you step into a game and it just don’t feel right, get up and leave. Whether your doubts are founded or not, remember; energy never dies.