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How does Shakespeare create a felling of fear and mystery in the witchcraft scenes in Macbeth? Why would they have been effective and convincing to a contemporary audience, and how have they been interpreted?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare create a felling of fear and mystery in the witchcraft scenes in Macbeth? Why would they have been effective and convincing to a contemporary audience, and how have they been interpreted? Macbeth is a play written by William Shakespeare, it is set in medieval Scotland. Witchcraft is a major part of the play, I will be writing about it and how it would have affected the audience at the time. There are three witches in the play and they are featured in Act 1 Scene 1, Act 1 Scene 3 and Act 4 Scene 1. I will also be seeing how the play has been interpreted in modern films and plays. The importance of Act 1 Scene 1, to the play, is great as it would have put fear into the hearts of the audience straight away, with it being set in a "desolate" place with "thunder and lightning". The witches speech would have also frightened the audience as they speak in rhyme, "...meet again...in rain", this implies that the witches are canting or casting a spell. ...read more.

Middle

The description of the witches would have made the audience feel uncomfortable as they had "beards", "choppy" fingers and they did not look like "th'inhabitants o'th'earth." These were typical descriptions of witches and if, after the play, the audience saw a woman with a beard they would begin to wonder. The witches call Macbeth "Thane of Glamis", which he is, they call him "Thane of Cawdor" which he does not know he is, but later on in the scene he becomes Thane of Cawdor and they also say "shalt be king". This implies that the witches can see into the future and that Macbeth will become king. They speak to Banquo in riddles "Not so happy, yet much happier" and they also tell him "shalt get kings" this means his sons will become kings, if it is true. Macbeth believes what the witches say and this part of the play will affect what Macbeth does later on. The witches vanish at the end of their part; this adds more mystery to them. ...read more.

Conclusion

The first apparition says "beware Macduff" the second says "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth" making Macbeth confident he will not be slain. The third says "Macbeth...never vanquished till great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill...come" this increases Macbeth's confidence as he believes a wood cannot move. The apparitions are said to be higher than the witches, this would heighten the audience's fear as there is a force more evil than witches. By the end of the play the apparition's words are shown to be ambiguous, this shows how truly evil they are. In conclusion, Shakespeare knew his audience well, he knew that, at the time, people were scared of witches, he knew what peoples different perceptions of witches were and played on them. He used many techniques to promote fear and mystery, for example, he made the witches vanish and speak in rhyme and riddles. In the modern film versions, minor things like, setting, clothes, number of witches and the appearance of the witches have been changed to affect different audiences but the plot and words have not been changed, this shows the play still scares people after four hundred years. Jacqueline Parvin 10RB 1 ...read more.

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