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What is the role of the witches in Macbeth?

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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.

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