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

How does Shakespeare’s presentation of the witches in Macbeth fit in with the expectations of the time?

Extracts from this document...


Theme: The Witches in Macbeth. Matthew Pitt 11w Text: Macbeth. 2/2/02 Task: Analysis of the three Witches. How does Shakespeare's presentation of the witches in Macbeth fit in with the expectations of the time? The play begins with thunder and lightning, on the moor (or heath). This immediately sets up an atmosphere of darkness and evil. In Shakespeare's day people thought the moor was a wild, lonely and frightening place - especially in foul weather. This is the first time the witches are seen in the play, and because they meet on the moor it makes them seem more evil than they really are. Witches are linked to darkness and evil and with the atmosphere already set like that; it makes it a lot more frightening to see the witches on the moor. They discuss when they will meet again, where they will meet again which is normal, but then they say whom they will meet with - which is Macbeth in this case. This shows a sort of psychic power because they know when he will be on the moor. People of that time believed witches to possess supernatural powers, so by saying that they will meet Macbeth on the moor, shows that they know what will happen in the future. ...read more.


The fact that there are three witches is emphasised, because in a time where Paganism was feared (three was a magical number in Paganism.), the number three was seen as evil. It was also a magical number because of the holy trinity The ingredients that the witches add to the cauldron are associated with the themes of death: 'finger of birth-strangled babe.'; crime: 'grease that's sweaten from the murderer's gibbet.'; evil: 'Tartar's lips.'; poison 'adder's fork'; and damnation: 'Liver of blaspheming Jew'. These powerful images would have shocked Shakespearean audiences and thus would have thought the witches as overwhelmingly evil. The witches add to this impression of evil by throwing 'into the flame' a murderer's gibbet. This shows that Macbeth will have the same fate as a murderer, being thrown into the flames of hell. There are other images of hell in the play. An example is in Act two, Scene three when the porter imagines himself to be the 'porter of hell-gate' when Macduff and Lenox knock on Macbeth's castle door. Shakespearean audiences would have recognised this as Jesus knocking on the gates of hell. There is also the supernatural element as the witches call up the evil spirits they serve at line 62. ...read more.


I think that Macbeth has already planned the murder of Macduff when he arrives at the cave 'He knows thy thought', but he seeks a kind of reassurance from the witches because he is so insecure. The witches do reassure him with the information that 'none of woman birth shall harm Macbeth' but this is not as straightforward as Macbeth thinks because of Macduff's Caesarean Section. They witches have tricked Macbeth. I don't think that Macbeth realises this danger: 'Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee?' The witches trick and tempt Macbeth by advising him to 'seek no more' on whether Banquo's descendants will be kings. This only serves to command the witches to show him. The witches do with relish, to 'grieve his [Macbeth's] heart' This makes Macbeth determined to alter fate. When the witches went, Lenox tells Macbeth that Macduff has fled to England. As the witches have tricked him, Macbeth does not fear from Macduff and so he damns himself further by plots the murder of Macduff's family. These tricks by the witches move the plot on and show how important the witches are in the play. As the witches said before Macbeth entered, 'The charm is firm and good.' and Macbeth's fate is sealed. However, we can only say how important the witches are after we assess how responsible they are for the events in the play by merely predicting what will happen. ...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)

    However, she breaks down in remorse towards the end and commits suicide. Shakespeare characterised the witches in Macbeth to fit in with James I's concepts of witchcraft, as outlined in James I's book, Daemonologie, because Shakespeare wished to please him with this play.

  2. Character Analysis of Macbeth

    With regards to the influencing factors we see that at the beginning of the play Macbeth is mainly intervened by external forces influence but as the play proceeds slowly he withdraws from his wife and friends due to again his paranoia and becomes more fuelled by his emotions, the predominant emotions being fear and jealousy.

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

    At the beginning of the scene the murderers arrive to inform Macbeth that Fleance has escaped but they had successfully killed Banquo. This turns the celebratory feast into a scene of turmoil for Macbeth, especially as Banquo's ghost arrives on the scene.

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

    For Macbeth. Ambition was what drove him to become great, it forced him to change his nature towards evil. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth was portrayed as a courageous soldier who fought for his King without mercy. But once the witches planted the seeds of greater things and Lady Macbeth

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

    After the witches have told Macbeth his prophecies, Banquo begins to ask about himself and is told by the witches that he'll be lesser than Macbeth and yet much greater and that he'll be not so happy and yet he'll be much happier and that his children will be kings but he will not.

  2. How do the first three scenes foretell the tragedy of Macbeth?

    The play was written to entertain King James 1, who had a certain fondness for witches. The fact that they were frightening beings and evil shows that as they mention Macbeths name shows that there is an evil link between them and as always-good triumphs over evil, which suggests that Macbeth will fall.

  1. What is the importance of the opening scene of Macbeth and the two scenes ...

    Finally, in Act 4 Scene 1, the witches are concocting a sickening, 'hellish' brew containing ingredients such as 'eye of newt' and 'tongue of dog' and it was believed that witches could raise evil spirits with these potions, which they later do with their apparitions.

  2. Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of the witches in Macbeth. How dramatically effective is the presentation-?

    Act 1:3 starts with a element of significance, once again the witches open a scene, and this time they immediately speak of an evil deed associated with witches, killing swine. This scene is also our first meeting of Macbeth and Banquo.

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