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Discuss the role of witches in Act 1 of

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Introduction

Discuss the role of witches in Act 1 of "Macbeth" The people of England endured a lot during its vindictive and powerful history. Reformation both in politics, economy and especially in religion had created a more independent England. Henry VIII had broken away from the disintegrating yet more prevailing and orthodox Catholic Church, for his desire to gain a divorce from his current wife. It was customary in the Catholic Church that only the Pope could grant a divorce, and so the Pope refused to bestow one. The breakaway created an independent Church of England with a new state religion adopted called "Protestant", in which the king was the head of the Church. There were significant amendments in types of worship, but both Catholics and Protestants worshipped the same God and utilised the Bible as its prayer book. One factor that created unity between the two Churches was the Christian belief of heaven and hell. Of all the beliefs, this was the only one that kept the local population religious and law-abiding. The belief was that anybody who led a good Christian life would be awarded with heaven for eternity, and individuals who didn't would proceed to hell for eternity. The basis of Christians going to hell was sin, and the devil was the master and performer of sins. The people of England held the superstition that witches were the agents of the devil, and created evil upon the nation and caused sin. By 1606, people believed in witchcraft because it elucidated things they had little knowledge of and which could not be explained by rational thought at that time; factors such as why people became ill or why storms spoilt crops. We must comprehend that England was not the industrial, scientific and urban society it is today, and the standards of living were low and there was no medical care, education, media, transport or energy. ...read more.

Middle

"I'll drain him dry as hay" The harsh weather would make him sleepless and without rest, though he will not die. "Weary sennights nine times nine, shall he dwindle, peak and pine," says that he will suffer for eighty-one days but his ship will not sink. The total misfortunes were upon the sailor's wife, who eventually would starve to death due to the fact the sailor had no income and food to provide for her. The witches from their past events are inhumane and remorseless, having no sympathy for the damage they cause from their evil acts, and those who are rebellious will suffer. The language is important in a different context, as previously told that witches had the power of prediction, the story of the sailor and his ship is actually an extended metaphor relating to Macbeths future. The future of Macbeth is that while he is on the throne, his kingdom is wrecked as the same way as the sailor's ship was almost wrecked. Witches are known to have mysterious though evil powers, which the people of England and James I were absolutely terrified of. One of the worst was that they could predict the future, as they predicted that Macbeth would become the Thane of Cawdor and also the king of Scotland "All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! All hail to Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail to Macbeth! That shalt be the king hereafter!" Whilst Macbeth is stunned by the predictions, Banquo demands to tell him of his future. He is told that although he will not become king, his offspring will be "Lesser than Macbeth, and greater", "Not so happy, yet much happier" and "thou shalt get kings, though thou be none". One such mysterious object witches possessed were familiars, or animals such as cats and toads, which carried out evil tasks for them. ...read more.

Conclusion

These are a confusion of words being produced by the witches to show the audience of their evil riddles, and another example of this is when the second witch says, "When the battle is lost and won". The witches use language to tell the audience that there riddles are the direct opposite, not sure whether which one to believe, as foul cannot be fair and fair cannot be foul as they both are of different meanings and this also applies when they say the sentence lost and won. The play is important because it represents the struggle between good and evil, as the witches are always shown as evil. Since the Play was based in the time where witches were being indicted as the main source of evil and suffering, it would be assumed that it would be natural in Shakespearean era to engender a feeling of hate and disgust against witches. The play is showing a system of good and evil which are battling it out, as Macbeth is generally a honourable gentleman in Scotland and as he helped the king to fight the Norwegians, it would be clear in the play he is generally of good nature. But the struggle between good and evil means that as soon as he meets the witches they influence him. However, If Macbeth had listened to Banquo then perhaps the tragic events to follow could have been stopped. The witches in the play are really important in terms of politics, because they support the beliefs of James I, who took a keen interest in the play. This would eventually provide an income to the actors and the theatre company. This play not only benefited the actors but also provided entertainment that no one could provide. "Macbeth" is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies: a drama of crime and punishment, of temptation, guilt, remorse and retribution. The witches offer great enticement, but it is in the end, each individual's decision to fall for the temptation, or be strong enough to resist their captivation. ...read more.

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