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

What is the role of the witches in Macbeth?

Extracts from this document...


What is the role of the witches in Macbeth? Macbeth was written in 1606, by William Shakespeare. The play was written when James the 1st of England and 6th of Scotland was on the throne as king. King James was also the first King to unite England and Scotland together as one. Additionally King James was also a very religious catholic Christian and did write a rather fascinating book regarding witches and witchcraft. The play Macbeth is set in Scotland, in a desolate place during the medieval period. Scotland at the time is ruled by the king, King Duncan. In the play he is presented as a true and gracious monarch. King Duncan also has a son named Malcolm who's the eldest of his sons. Early in the play Malcolm is named as King Duncan's heir (next king of Scotland). Then there is Macbeth who is a mighty and ambitious warrior and is one of the leaders of King Duncan's army. At the beginning of the play Macbeth is Thane of glamis, but later due to the witches prophecies becomes Thane of Cawdor and The King of Scotland. Macbeth has a wife named Lady Macbeth who in the latter parts of the play urges Macbeth to kill King Duncan and ends up with horrific visions of blood and consequently dies. There is Banquo a co-commander of King Duncan's army. He and Macbeth are the best of comrades. There is also Macduff a Scottish thane who comes to prominence after the Murder of King Duncan and leads the opposition against Macbeth. Finally, there is the main character the witches. There are three witches in the play that are referred to as supernatural phenomena. There called 'weird sisters' in Shakespeare's historical source book. They predict prophecies for Macbeth and Banquo, but they predict much for Macbeth. The witches play a vital, crucial and major role in the play. ...read more.


The point at which Macbeth really begins to believe the witches prophecies and everything they believe is when Ross tells Macbeth that he has become the new Thane of Cawdor. However, Banquo is prepared to say that the witches are evil, which suggests that he is good character because the witches were seen as evil and anyone thinking otherwise would be seen as being evil. We know that Banquo sees the witches as being evil because he calls them "the devil". Macbeth immediately asks Banquo whether he hopes his children will be kings, which implies to us that Macbeth clearly trusts the witches fully, however Banquo is much more wary and knows the evil nature of the witches and so refuses to believe Macbeth. Then Banquo says "look how are partners wrapt". This shows Macbeth is 'wrapt' in thought after the witches have predicted he will be king hereafter. Additionally Banquo warns Macbeth that the witches may be deceiving him in this scene by saying "but 'tis strange, and often times, to win us harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths; win us with honest trifles, to betray's in deepest consequence". Then Macbeth goes onto say that he is already having images of murder by saying "whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, and make my seated heart knock at my ribs, against the use of nature? Present fears are less than horrible imaginings: my thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical", this clearly indicates that the witches have implanted a seed in Macbeths mind. Then Banquo says how Macbeth looks so confused. And aside, Macbeth says if the witches say I'll be king then why do I have to do anything, I'll just wait. Macbeth is here showing signs that he is being reasonable. Macbeth then goes on to say that he'll discuss these prophecies and witches later with Banquo. Additionally the witches know Macbeths ambition to become king by violent means, urged on by Lady Macbeth Act 1 Scene 7. ...read more.


Then enters Lennox and says what's wrong and Macbeth then says did you see the witches. Lennox replies no. then Macbeth says "infected be the air whereon they ride; and damn'd all those that trust them! I did hear the galloping of horse: who was't came by?" this shows great irony because he increasingly trusts them, and Macbeth is now damned and he doesn't know what he is any more. Lennox replies to Macbeth that the galloping of horses was Macduff fleeing to England. Macbeth becomes shocked and goes on to say that basically Macduff has fled before his death and that Macbeth will do whatever he thinks and says he will kill Macduff's family. He then goes on to say that he is still horrified by the witches images. Basically here the witches are ending Macbeths reign as King. This ends Act 4 Scene 1. I will now look at Act 5 Scene 7 line 19 to 22. This is were Macbeth is near death and fighting Macduff and Macbeth finds out Macduff is not of women born. Macbeth goes on to say "And be these juggling fiends no more believ'd that palter with us in a double sense, that keep the word of promise to out ear and break it to our hope. I'll fight not with thee." This is basically saying that the witches keep to a promise but that promise has double meanings and Macbeth has been tricked. This, as an audience, takes us straight back to Act 4 Scene 1. Conclusively the witches were the main cause of Macbeths reign as king, his downfall, and death. The witches controlled him from when they first met and since then Macbeth wanted to know more. This showed his overall stubbornness and ignorance. Witchcraft plays a major part in Macbeth's actions and his weak character is easily manipulated. Although being an honest and brave man earlier, his ambition clouds his judgement. His life is tragic and through some terrible deeds ends in catastrophe. This concludes my essay. ?? ?? ?? ?? Billy sagoo English coursework 11 SYH Mr.Gollop ...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)

    He realises that the only way to rid himself of these deeds is by his demise. Lady Macbeth is obsessed by the witches' prophecies and sets out to do her up most to see that they come true. They bring out a forceful woman, who wants to suppress her femininity in order to manipulate her husband into doing evil.

  2. Character Analysis of Macbeth

    We can see his guilt and regret build up and burst out as witnessed in the banquet scene where Banquo's ghost appears only to him and a mental breakdown takes place with moments of Macbeth almost unconsciously confesses the details of his to murders in the presence of lords to which the pressurised Lady Macbeth desperately tries to disguise.

  1. Is ambition the root of Macbeth's downfall?

    Macbeth cannot bear this as he feels he has paid a high price to ensure his own name on the crown. His fears become evident as well, 'But to be safely thus: our fears in Banquo/ Stick deep;' Macbeth has Banquo murdered; however his son Fleance escapes in the attack.

  2. Macbeth - Act 4 Scene 1: Discuss the Dramatic Potential in this scene.

    This can be seen as a lot of exclamation marks, question marks and dashes have been used. It can also be seen, that when Macbeth sees something that he thinks is bad, he cannot take it. This is his downfall and it is also his weakness.

  1. Analyse the rise and fall of Macbeth

    won over to evil and he throws up many objections to murdering Duncan in order to ascend to the throne. Shakespeare reveals Macbeth's thoughts and feelings through soliloquies - 'This supernatural soliciting, Cannot be ill, cannot be good' I.iii, 129-130 However, he allows the witches' prophecy and his wife's ambition for him to undermine his integrity.

  2. By considering the soliloquies, analyse how Macbeth's character changes as the play progresses.

    Macbeth is stating that the Prince of Cumberland is in his way on his quest for the throne. Macbeth knows he must deal with the prince somehow, or else he will be beaten by him. As the speech progresses so Macbeth's anger reduces until towards the end his tone is more calm and controlled.

  1. Examine Macbeth's mental deterioration throughout the play.

    a reference to wind which, at that time, was a "synonym" of luck. The following quotation is the final step in Macbeth's downfall: his fear and his cowardness are shown by these words which are told to Macduff. MACBETH: Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests, I bear a charmed life, which must not yield To one of woman born.

  2. Banquos principles have been deeply compromised and we justifiably feel that he is not ...

    ?The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray?s In deepest consequence.? At this point I do not believe Banquo has any real suspicion of the treachery that is gnawing at Macbeth?s heart; he is simply giving advice to his friend who seemed ?rapt withal? at the witches? words.

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