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

Consider the roles of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the Witches

Extracts from this document...


When answering this question you need to consider the roles of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the Witches. From this we need to also consider when the play was written and in what context the audience saw the characters in the time when the plays were written. Shakespeare was commissioned to write the play by James I of England who was also James IV of Scotland in the same period and was the new King of England. James I was obsessed and paranoid about witches, so much so that he wrote a book on the subject titled Demonology; at this time everyone believed in the existence of the supernatural, and when the Witches came on to the stage they would not be seen as funny or laughable but as sinister and scary. James I mother, Mary Queen of Scots had been executed on the charge of treason, his father Lord Darnley had been assassinated. James I had inherited a time of political turmoil and confusion through the church and the monarchy's ideology; and a time where political murder and revenge murder were commonplace. James I himself had, had two assassination attempts made on his life. The second of these was in 1605 and is well known to this day it was the Gunpowder Plot; this may be why the murder of King Duncan isn't in the play because it may insight ideas about murdering King James I, also showing the murder may make James I seem less divine. James I would be seen as less divine because if a King is seen to be murdered on stage while he is asleep with no struggle them he may be seen by the public as faulted and fallible. In Shakespeare's period people believed there was a greater power controlling life, and as long as this divine order was maintained chaos wouldn't take control. The murder of the king would throw the system into chaos; the murder would not only be a crime against the state but more importantly a crime against god. ...read more.


Throughout the play there is the constant theme of 'fair is foul'. Lady Macbeth is the personification of this phrase. As underlying her beautiful and fragile exterior is ambition maybe greater then Macbeth's and greed, as she wants also to be great. There is historical evidence that she was based on a real person and that this person was divorced from a previously powerful and rich man within Scotland. With the arrival of Macbeth's letter she is inspired as Macbeth is. She sees as Macbeth does what has to be done to secure the final prophesy. We know what Macbeth wants to do and how he is dealing with it. In Act 1 Scene 4 as Malcolm is named as the Prince of Cumberland, the audience see an aside with Macbeth dealing with this point ' The Prince of Cumberland: that is a step On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap,' This is saying that although this may cause a problem in his occupation for king it is something he is willing to overcome, and also shows that he is wiling to kill more than once to gain the title of king. Women have always been considered as the gentler and fair sex. Lady Macbeth feels that to commit this crime, she must become as cruel as she believes men are. She calls for the spirits to unsex her, so she may act as a man so that she may commit these acts and think ambitiously, to become more calculating and give her clarity of mind to perform such an evil act and to give her the power to pursued her honourable husband into such an act. She wishes to be 'posessed' to avoid her emotions of guilt and regret to hamper her. Also the statement "unsex me here" could link to the witch's ambiguous sex and how their strangeness confused her husband. ...read more.


While they do not partake in any physical act they play on Macbeth's inner desires, starting him off on a train of thought that will end in the murder of King Duncan. I feel that while they add temptation and influence to Macbeth they cannot control his destiny. Macbeth creates his own misery when he is driven by his own sense of guilt for not fulfilling "what makes a man" to lady Macbeth. This causes him to become insecure as to the reasons for his actions. As a result of this he becomes paranoid which in turn causes him to commit more murders in order to secure his already fragile position. Therefore the three Witches are only responsible for the introduction of these ideas, Macbeth is responsible for further forming ideas in Macbeth's head, but they are not responsible for his actions throughout the play. The witches offer great enticement, but it is in the end, each individual's decision to fall for the temptation, or to be strong enough to resist their captivation. In the play the witches play a fundamental part. They kindle Macbeth's ambition for kingship and quell his reasoning making him vulnerable to intimidation and seduction in the form of lady Macbeth. Their entrance also brings into the play the idea of fate, the role that it has in the play and in essence they provide a catalyst for the events in the play. I think that lady Macbeth is an important part of the play as she persuades Macbeth to the murder but Macbeth had to give into her scheming and blackmail type persuasion so ultimately I feel that Macbeth is most responsible for the Murder as it is him who endorses the prophecies of the witches and then passes those onto lady Macbeth. If he had not told Lady Macbeth I think that he would still have come to the same decision even if it did come further down the line. Macbeth has huge in lying ambition and with his creative imagination I think that he would have given in to the ideas in the end. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE 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 GCSE Macbeth essays

  1. Macbeth Summary - historical context and the main female roles.

    trusts and loves * The witches and her share similar features in that they lack in human empathy and are ambiguous beings e.g. witches have beards and Lady Macbeth wants to be unsexed. The Three Witches * Three "weird sisters" who are the first characters we meet in the play

  2. Explain how Shakespeare Uses Gender Roles in Macbeth

    Art thou afraid to be the same in thine own act and valour, As thou art desire". This firstly asks Macbeth if he loves her, and says if he did love her, then he would kill Duncan. Secondly, Lady Macbeth is calling him a coward, and she says that Macbeth

  1. To what extent is Macbeth wholly responsible for his ruin, which destroys not only ...

    When the witches tell him to 'Beware Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife' it is hereafter that Macbeth plans the unthinkable and sends murderers to kill Macduff's entire virtuous household. He informs Lennox that 'the castle of Macduff I will surprise, Seize upon Fife, give to the edge o' th'

  2. Shakespeare's use of the Supernatural in Macbeth

    She asks him to clarify his shouting, from which she gets the reply: 'Still it cried 'Sleep no more!' to all the house. Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more.' This statement my Macbeth practically maps out the rest of the

  1. Was Macbeth a Victim of the Witches or did he have control over his ...

    Banquo warned Macbeth about the witches, "That trusted him, Might yet enkindle you into the crown, Beside the Thane of Cawdor. But 'tis strange: And oftentimes, to win us harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray's In deepest consequence."

  2. Explain what Act 1, Scene 7 tells us about the characters of Macbeth and ...

    Lady Macbeth is a control-freak, a perfectionist, planning everything to the finest detail. The audience, most likely the men, might have reacted to this particular statement with a few stifled laughs- after all Macbeth has spent most of the plays beginning few scenes revelling in the adoration of his fellow

  1. How is Macbeth persuaded to kill Duncan: Is his wife entirely to blame?

    When the messenger arrives, he comes with the news "The king arrives here tonight," Lady Macbeth, in a moment of confusion thinks that the envoy is referring to Macbeth, bursting out with the words "Thou'rt mad to say it." This is another instance where Shakespeare divides the iambic pentameter to

  2. Discuss the role of Lady Macbeth in the play. Is it Lady Macbeth or ...

    - Someone who encapsulates evil. The audience comes to realise that Macbeth, who is very tempted by the notion of kingship, has no chance against this self-created monster. He is affect - damned. The witches' prophecy is something that Lady Macbeth is obsessed by and is determined to will into fruition.

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