Harry Potter and the Macbeth Essay

by Tawny

Abstract: The writer proves that not knowing your future leaves you better off in the end than knowing it by comparing characters that do know their future and revealing their downfall.

Fate is a word for the unstoppable course of events that take place in someone’s life. Some people believe that their fate is all set in stone long before they are even born. In the history of literature, many authors have written about characters learning their fate in a prophecy and then attempting to change it. Unfortunately for these characters, knowing your fate is usually more dangerous than not knowing it, especially for the characters Macbeth in the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare and Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Both characters eventually find out that hearing their fate and then messing around with it becomes the reason for their downfall. Voldemort and Macbeth both become so cocky with the knowledge of their futures that they feel they are invincible and miss important information about their prophecy, though both in the end could have “saved their souls” from evil if they had never heard the prophecy.

In both the Harry Potter series and Macbeth, the characters Macbeth and Voldemort learn a prophecy about themselves that makes them believe they are invincible. One prophecy that Macbeth learns from the witches is that “None of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth” (4.1. 80-81). With this new information, Macbeth thinks that it is impossible for him to be killed as every human is born from a woman so he has no fear when he fights at the end of the play. Unfortunately, because he believes that he cannot be killed and put so much trust in the prophecy, he overlooks the fact that Macduff was “from his mother’s womb/ Untimely ripp’d,” (5.7.44-45) and he is able to kill Macbeth. Likewise, Voldemort learns in his prophecy that at the end of July, a baby will be born with the powers to vanquish him. Voldemort thinks that if he kills this baby before it can learn any magical powers he will get rid of any chances of him dying. Voldemort, who is filled with the idea of being completely invincible, rushes into the house to kill the helpless baby, overlooking the power of the deeper magic of a mother’s love, so that when he goes to cast his spell it rebounds and destroys him instead. If Macbeth and Voldemort both had taken the time to think about what their prophecy really meant and that they could not rely only on what a prophecy says, they both could have made wiser choices and lived longer.

Also in both texts, both Voldemort and Macbeth fail to get important information from their prophecy which leads them into making wrong choices in their life. For Voldemort, he is told by his follower, Severus Snape, that “The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies.” Voldemort then jumps to the conclusion that the simple way for him to remain invincible is to kill the baby before it can learn any magical powers. What Voldemort fails to hear from Snape was the rest of the prophecy which says, “the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.”(pg. 741, OotP UK) This is vital information that he misses because there were two possible people that the prophecy could have been referring to, Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter, both being born at the end of July and both having parents that faced Voldemort before. Because there were two people it could have been referring to, it was Voldemort that marked one of them as his equal when he went to try and kill Harry and therefore he created the only enemy that could defeat him. Likewise, Macbeth learns from the three witches that he will be king, but they never tell him how or when it will happen. Macbeth takes it upon himself to kill King Duncan to make way for him to be ruler instead of waiting for life to give to him in a non-evil way. Because Macbeth was not told how he would be made king, he picked the easiest way to become it, but it was for the price of his soul.

Similarly in both texts, if Voldemort and Macbeth had never heard their prophecy they both never would have tried to commit the murders that eventually led to their downfall and could have still had some good in them. Macbeth hears his prophecy and kills Duncan so he can be king, but killing him leads Macbeth in an evil direction where he eventually has no good left in him and is killed for his actions. Likewise, if Voldemort had never heard his prophecy he would not have made the twisted, evil choice to try and kill the innocent baby Harry – which instead backfired and destroyed him.

In conclusion, for most characters, like Voldemort and Macbeth, knowing your fate is usually worse than just taking life day by day. Hearing a prophecy can make characters cocky with information – make them think they know all. This knowledge leads these characters to make wrong choices because they are missing important information about their futures, and they could have lived longer with a less damaged soul if they had not tried to mess around with it.