The belief in prophecy is particularly important in gaining a foothold on understanding the downfall of Macbeth and his Lady. When Macbeth first comes upon the Weird Sister and they roll out the prophecies for both Macbeth and Banquo, and by extension Duncan and his family, more is going on than just a foretelling of the future. The prophecies instill in Macbeth the realization of his dreams, of course, but they also portend that the darkest fears of Macbeth will be realized alongside his dreams (Van Doren, Lehman 216). Without Macbeth's unquestioned belief in the occult and acceptance that the Weird Sisters have the power of prophecy, there would be neither a rise nor a fall. If the rise of Macbeth to king can be said to be a combination of belief in the Sisters and the manipulation of his wife, his fall comes about as the result of a fatal mistake on his part: mistakenly believing that he has the power to deny the future as foretold.
Macbeth fervently believes in the power of the occult, yet he does not accept his role as mere recipient of the power of fates beyond his control. Just as he is indecisive before the murder of Duncan, Macbeth also proves to be less than firm in his view of how the witches' prophesying works. Rather than merely being a blank canvas upon which is written a predestined series of events that effectively turn him into a puppet on a string to be manipulated by the Weird Sisters, Macbeth from the beginning takes a proactive stance. This activity starts with having his indecision overcome by his wife before he kills Duncan, but the downfall begins when he begins to believe that nothing he does can change the course of future events, but only bring them to fruition.
Many famous quotations have come from Macbeth, but it is one of the lesser known lines of the play that presents the key to understanding the downfall of the Macbeths. "Strange things I have in head, that will to hand / Which must be acted, ere they may be scanned." (Shakespeare 160). Macbeth is aware of his fate as well as the fates of others, but as he says this he fully tosses off the shackles of his indecisiveness. In relieving himself at last of all moral quandaries that may exist on his path toward absolute and guaranteed power, Macbeth makes the ultimate mistake in his rise that will lead surely to his destruction. Macbeth has made decision that thinking too much is the cause of his problems. But it is important to realize that by this point Macbeth has strange things taking place inside his head without the input from his wife. It is also important to understand that the downfall of Lady Macbeth occurs only after she has done the opposite by making the decision to finally begin questioning her amorality (Thompson, and Ancona). Lady Macbeth only begins to lose her mind once she capitulates to the kind of moral quandary from which she earlier plucked her husband. In the wife's case it is the decision to think too much that leads to insanity.
The opposite is true for her husband. Macbeth's quick descent into madness is caused by his failure to think too much and act too rashly. What is most strange about this is that Macbeth has seen clearly that the Weird Sisters have been right about everything, yet he seems to be incapable of