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Examine the dramatic impact and significance of the witches in Macbeth.

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Introduction

Shakespeare Coursework By Liz Cartwright 10Pu "Examine the dramatic impact and significance of the witches in Macbeth." The witches, who feature in Shakespeare's Macbeth, are significant and essential to the plays' story line. Witches, around the time of Shakespeare, were seen as demons and messengers from the devil, and were burnt at the stake, as it was believed that these evil spirits urged people to commit wrong acts. Witches and evil spirits feature in several of Shakespeare's plays, but none were as evil as that of the Witches in Macbeth. The King at the time was James I, who had an interest in witchcraft, as he believed that a witch had tried to sink his ship whilst the King was at sea. He also wrote the book, "Demonology", which is where Shakespeare learnt many of the witches chants and spells for the play. The witches are very important to the play because they predict Macbeth's rise and fall. From the very first scene we can tell that the three characters on stage are evil. The thunder and lightening represent confusion, disorder and turmoil. Then, in the first four lines we can see that they have the ability to foresee the future, as they talk of when they will meet again which shows superhuman powers. ...read more.

Middle

At the end of Scene 3, the audience would feel shocked that the predictions had come true and would also be wondering how Macbeth could insure that the final prediction comes true as well. In Act 1 Scene 5, Lady Macbeth is reading a letter written by Macbeth about his meeting with the witches. Upon finding out this information, she shows her evil side, asking the spirits to take away her feminine qualities so she can kill the King, Duncan, herself, as she knows Macbeth is too kind and she remarks: "It is too full o' the milk of human kindness..." This shows a relationship between her and the witches, and by the time Macbeth arrives, only a few minutes later, she has already geared herself up to killing Duncan. It is the witches' prophecies, together with Lady Macbeth comments towards his manhood that drives Macbeth to kill the King for his own gain. We do not meet the witches again until Act 3 Scene 5, after the murders of the King and Banquo have been committed and all of the trouble regarding the disappearance of the Kings sons and the murder investigation begin. They again meet on the heath, together with the thunder to emphasise the confusion and disorder. They meet Hecate, the senior witch, who is angry with them for having dealings with Macbeth and she describes him as: "...a wayward son..." ...read more.

Conclusion

which shows that he has excepted that he cannot hide from his fate. The final reference to the witches lying, is when Macduff tells him, Act 5 Scene 8, that he was born by Caesarian. Macbeth has to except that the witches have lied to him. Macduff then kills Macbeth. Throughout the play the witches, never actually suggest that Macbeth should kill anyone to ensure that the prediction came true. They merely used language to increase his confidence and his feeling of indestructibility and security. The witches are in the play as they serve a variety of purposes. The most obvious role is to give Macbeth the initial ideas and to create the ambition within him. The witches also help to show the audience the changes that are occurring in the character as the play progresses, which can be seen through the way he talks to the witches. For example, he gets more and more familiar as he gets further away from the constraints of human society. On a more practical and theatrical level, the witches provide a change in scene and mood, which keeps the audiences' attention. The message put across by the play about witches is that they are evil and not to be trusted. An audience in Shakespeare's time would have understood this message, as witches and witchcraft were very prominent and people were scared of the evil spirits. Nowadays the audiences see the witches as a dramatic device that adds tensions and drama to the plot of the play. ...read more.

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