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Explain the role of the witches in Shakespeare's play "Macbeth"

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Introduction

Explain the role of the witches in Shakespeare's play "Macbeth" "Macbeth" was a tragedy written by William Shakespeare in 1606. The play shows the downfall of a man who has many fine qualities, but commits murder as a result of his ambition and his tendency to be influenced by others. Most of Shakespeare's audience believed in witches although, their existence was beginning to be questioned at that time. Some critics say that the witches made Macbeth commit the murder, but is it as clear-cut as this? How much influence did the witches exert on Macbeth? The visual impact of the witches may give a sign of their power, maybe intriguing the characters to meet them again. Their strange appearance "That not look like th' inhabitants of the earth" shows that Banquo and Macbeth are intrigued, if not mesmerized, by their looks. In act 3 scene 1, Banquo seems to comment more about their looks than Macbeth, and gives signs that Banquo is taking them less seriously than Macbeth. The witches' ugliness is an obvious sign of evil and Banquo senses this but Macbeth is less convinced possibly because they voice his own thoughts. ...read more.

Middle

The second part of this quote adds to their image of wickedness and would have created tension among the audience. Perhaps the most famous scene in Macbeth concerns the witches and especially their language. "Liver of blaspheming Jew, Finger of birth-strangled babe." In the middle ages, in Christendom, Jews were considered by many to be the personification of evil and these disgusting images are the ingredients of the witches� spell. The language used shows the exploitation of innocence and vulnerability by the witches and this links in with the theme of their desire to bring all good things to evil. The imagery conjured up in the spell is one of pure evil and shows their power to supposedly see into the future. The witches' power is evident in all three scenes ranging from the conjuring of storms and the storm that travels around with them. This storm not only portrays evil, but power as well. The storm emanates a sign of power right from the start and to the finish of "Macbeth". ...read more.

Conclusion

This ties in with the theme of the Devil in Christianity. The Devil cannot make you do anything but simply tempt you into committing a crime. However you could say that the witches in "Macbeth" were not responsible for all the events leading up to the climax of the play. Critics say that the murders could have taken place, even if the witches had not been present in the play. This gives rise to the other hypothesis, that the witches were able to control Macbeth's destiny. If they had indeed manipulated his destiny, this would show that the witches in the play did have power over life and death. The witches, who might be considered to be the catalysts to Macbeth's actions, also affected all of the other characters in the play in some way. In conclusion I believe that the witches were central to the action of the play and did exert a pressure on Macbeth to perform the murders. However, their powers could not extend as far as to force him to commit the murders. The witches did not force him to do the murder but just enticed him into doing the murder. Their role, as outlined earlier, was that of catalysts. ...read more.

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