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According to Shakespearean scholar AC Bradley while the influence of the witches prophecies on Macbeth is very great it is quite clearly shown to be an influence and nothing more There is no sign in the play whatever that Shakespeare meant the actions of Macbeth to be forced on him by external powers Bradleys argument is valid the witches provide the spur Macbeth needs to act on his overbearing ambition but it is ultimately the choice of Macbeth and Macbeth alone to pursue his thirst for the throne - to turn his thoughts into actions The influence of the witches is indeed no more than an influence as is demonstrated by Macbeths initial reaction to their prophecies his subsequent independent decisions to murder for the kingship and his own admittance in the end that his actions were of his own doing and not forced on him by external powers Macbeths immediate reaction to the witches prophecies is the first clear piece of evidence that Shakespeare did not intend for them to be anything more than an influence Upon first hearing their prophecy that he will be king Macbeths response is telling he starts This reaction suggests that before Macbeth even stumbles upon the presence of the Weird Sisters he has thoughts of becoming king Moreover the suggestion is not simply that he has considered it - for starting is a sign of guilt of which he would have little if his thoughts were innocent - but that he has considered acting on it - a crucial distinction The prophecy itself contains little but the mention that he will be king All hail Macbeth that shalt be king hereafter I iii l 501 Indeed Bradley observes that the witches merely announced events they hailed him as Thane of Glamis Thane of Cawdor and King hereafter No connection of these announcements with any action of his was even hinted by themIn any case the idea of fulfilling
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