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

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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.

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