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What do you think the significance of the witches is in Macbeth?

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?What do you think is the significance of the witches in Macbeth?? The witches within Shakespeare?s ?Macbeth? can be interpreted as providing a number of roles within the play which add not only to the plot but also to the atmosphere and fear evoked within the audience. Within the Jacobean period in which ?Macbeth? was first performed, witches were the subject of much public hysteria and superstition, with the King?s own beliefs being based on a long history of Christian paranoia about witchcraft. As a result, the witches can be seen as a supernatural influence within the play, linking them to the devil and other dark forces and playing on the real and current fears of what may have been a dominantly Christian audience. ...read more.


However, there is also contradictory argument that in reality, the witches do not hold any true superiority of power and that it is instead the planting of the idea in Macbeth?s mind which leads him to commit murder through the growth of his own ?dark desires.? This is exemplified further as Banquo suggests ?oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray?s in deepest consequence.? Following this interpretations, the witches may be interpreted as having less power as they merely suggest an idea, and it is the desire and drive of the human mind which instead leads to Macbeth?s downfall. This interpretation may also be considered particularly frightening both to a Jacobean and a modern audience as it follows the modern Gothic stereotype of playing on the realistic fears of humans, such as the power of our deep and potentially repressed desires. ...read more.


Not only does this ambiguity create further unpredictability, but it also reflects the later attempts of Lady Macbeth to be rid of her femininity: ?Come, you spirits, That end on mortal thoughts, unsex me here.? The parallels between the witches and the actions of Lady Macbeth work to similarly convey her as increasingly monstrous, perhaps suggesting a criticism of the lack of social role and responsibility which leads to her own deterioration. Thus, our ability to categorize ourselves and others into gender roles and abide by the social expectations linked to these is seen as a distinctly human attribute and one which Shakespeare may have deemed important for the successful function of a patriarchal society. Lastly, the witches may also be considered significant in adding a grotesque nature to the play which further exemplifies their sinister nature: ?Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog. ...read more.

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