• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discuss the role of the witches in Shakespeare's "Macbeth".

Extracts from this document...


Discuss the role of the witches in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" Introduction In the Seventeenth Century it was thought that witches could raise evil spirits by concocting a horrible brew with nauseating ingredients. It was also thought that witches had diabolical powers, that they could predict the future, fly, sail in sieves, cause fogs and tempests, bring on night and daytime and kill animals. It was also believed that witches could curse enemies with fatal wasting diseases, including nightmares and sterility and could take demonic possession of any individual they chose. People also believed in witches because they were very superstitious. This was because there was no scientific method or test that could prove if a person was a witch or not. People also believed in witches because they liked to believe in the supernatural and if anyone had a red spot or birthmark, they would have been accused of being a witch. This was known as the "damned spot" where the devil had sucked blood from them. This was one of the ways they judged people as a witch. People have always needed an explanation for their own mistakes and natural disasters. People feared damnation that awaited those who challenged Christian beliefs; therefore people blamed witches and not God for natural disasters. Even the King ,James I, believed that witches tried to sink his ship by raising a storm. ...read more.


"Choppy finger" is what Banquo uses to describe the witches fingers. It means that the witches fingers are chapped, rough and red. Banquo also mentions how the witches have "Skinny lips" and he mentions that the witches have beards.This is very uncouth for women and this is why Banquo thinksthat, although they should be women, they have very masculine features. Banquo speaks about the witches again wondering if what was before his eyes was really there: "Were such things as we do speak about? Or have we eaten on the insane root that takes the prisoner?" Banquo starts to wonder whether the witches were really there or whether they had taken an "insane root" like hemlock which is hallucinagenic and that is what made them see the witches. I think the adjectives make the scenes more interesting by adding humour to the play, for example, when Banquo mistakes the witches for men. This is humour added by Shakespeare purely to get a laugh out of the audience and to give a more amusing image of the witches. I also think that Shakespeare uses adjectives well to describe how the witches look and how they appear to other characters in the play. There are many examples of similes and metaphors used by the witches to express their actions more subtly including; "I'll drain him dry as hay" The witch threatens the woman who did not give the witch her chestnuts. ...read more.


The Witches have therefore instilled in Macbeth the belief that he will become King and remain so, as only a man born not of a woman can harm him and Birnam Wood should move to Dunsinane, both of which to Macbeth's understanding are impossible. Even so, when he enquires "Shall Banquo's issue ever reign in this kingdom?" The Witches respond with "Seek to know no more." They have therefore misled Macbeth again showing that they are devious and evil to toy with Macbeth. Summary In "Macbeth" Shakespeare depicts the witches as having all the traits of which appealed to the morbid fascination of the people of the times. These would include the ability to foretell the future; their appearance was unearthly, 'withered and wild', they could conjure apparitions, sail in sieves and control the weather. However the most serious characteristic was that of being evil and malicious towards Macbeth. Setting a scene based on Witches In Polanski's version of "Macbeth", he has depicted his version from the book. By this, I think that Polanski's version is very well presented and his witches are as you would have thought to have found witches in the Seventeenth Century. If I was to stage the witches in "Macbeth", I would use the "Spin Doctors" who are behind Tony Blair or any popular public figure whilst they do not have the outward appearance of witches, their skills in manipulation and deviciveness are very much the same as those of all the historical witches. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Macbeth section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Macbeth essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does Shakespeare characterize the witches?

    3 star(s)

    They can induce storms and rain, making them appear more evil. Here Shakespeare used the information from James I's Daemonologie, to characterize the evil of the witches' accommodation, and places where they are found. He uses the witches to express their desire to make evil by creating bad weather (storms etc.).

  2. What is the role of the witches in Macbeth?

    know that the witches can see the future and have supernatural powers. Then the first and second witch go to there assistances, a cat and a toad. Then together they say "fair is foul, foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air".

  1. 'Macbeth is full of highly dramatic scenes. Choose two scenes and explore how Shakespeare ...

    This scene as a whole focuses on the imagery of blood, wounds and gore. 'There is blood upon thy face.' 'Blood hath been shed.' 'thy blood is cold,' At the end of this scene these subtle hints prompt the audience to reflect on what has happened and how much Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are responsible for their fate so far.

  2. “Macbeth is essentially a study in the power of the supernatural.” Discuss

    Furthermore, whilst the influence of both Lady Macbeth and the witches is strong, their power over Macbeth is only possible because the ambition is there. Macbeth, therefore, is a hero but one who is fatally undermined by his ambition; and the consequences of such ambition - also explored through his

  1. Discuss the role of witches in Act 1 of

    Men did however, play the parts of women and so this is why Shakespeare decided to add the factors such as the witches having the physicals properties of males. The witches are regarded as wicked and mischievous, causing havoc upon the ordinary population.

  2. Macbeth was led down to an inescapable road of doom by an outside force, ...

    He also want the audience to think she evil in the ways she persuades Macbeth in to murdering. This two points, as a sharp contrast of each other and this is what give it the powerful effect of evil. For Macbeth.

  1. The Role Of The Witches In Macbeth.

    In reply to this she says "Killing swine." This is an example of the ruthless evil, which the witches possess. When the first witch is questioned she states how she asked a woman for some food and was told to go away. In order to seek revenge, all the witches join together to brew a storm for the woman's husband who is at sea.

  2. Shakespeare wrote many plays and Macbeth is one of his most compelling. When Shakespeare ...

    This shows they are communicating with animals, which doesn't necessarily represent evil just the supernatural side of them. At the end of this scene the witches speak together and say "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air."

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work