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

Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of the witches in Macbeth. How dramatically effective is this presentation and how it contributes to the play as a whole?

Extracts from this document...


Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of the witches in Macbeth. How dramatically effective is this presentation and how it contributes to the play as a whole? The witches are a physical embodiment of evil in the play Macbeth. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, they represent temptation. The world of the witches is terrifying and their language full of spitefulness, violent and grisly references to mutilation. Banquo senses that they are evil and he is very mistrustful of them. Macbeth is tempted by their predictions, because they perhaps echo his own thoughts. The witches never tell lies but, because they speak in puzzling riddles, it is possible for Macbeth to hear only what he wants to hear. By the time Macbeth realises that he has made the mistake in trusting them it is too late. In Shakespeare's day there was a widespread belief in the supernatural world and the existence of witches, but people were starting to question many of the older ideas about believing in supernatural things. This uncertainty is reflected in the play; we are never quite sure whether the witches have any real power or whether they can only persuade others or suggest things to them. ...read more.


Shakespeare instantly creates a mood of terror and unearthly evil: the first stage direction, 'Thunder and Lightning. Enter three Witches'. When the witches chant 'Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair:/Hover through the fog and filthy air' you can guess that it is going to be hard in the play to tell the difference between good and evil. The way things appear may not be the way they really are. Things that look good may turn out to be evil, evil things may seem to be good; just like some characters in the play. Grey-Malkin and Padock are the witches' familiars, demon-companions in animal form. It is usually thought that a Grey-Malkin is a cat and a Padock is a toad. The witches' words have great affect on Macbeth. Banquo notices that this and asks him if he fears their words. Banquo cannot see why this great warrior should be afraid, when he is promised the only good things. What the witches say seems to strike a chord in Macbeth's mind, especially the prediction that he will be king. ...read more.


The witches talk all the time in rhymes, which makes everything they say sound like a magic spell being chanted. The witches' "gruel" is also an image of formless confusion, the primeval chaos into which the powers of evil are constantly striving to plunge creation. This reflects the Elizabethan's belief about the nature of the world and the relationship between good and evil. Order and disorder. The witches say Macbeth is like themselves-"something wicked this way comes". Are the witches right? Notice how Macbeth talks to them. He does not seem afraid as he was at first. Macbeth doesn't care how much damage or chaos he cause, he just wants to know the future. Remember Banquo's warning which Macbeth seems to have forgotten. The witches will use Macbeth's readiness to believe their predictions as a way of destroying him. The nature and effects of evil dominate the action of the play. The potential for evil is present in nature, in man and in animals and the plays imagery evokes this. Evil is a supernatural force, manifested in the shape of the three witches whose successful temptation of Macbeth threatens to plunge the world back into chaos from which Elizabethans supposed, God released it, when he created order and morality. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...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. Examine some of the ways in which Shakespeare makes the portrayal of Macbeth's downfall ...

    This is where he meets the witches and where they tell him that he will be King and Thane of Cawdor. Shakespeare uses language here to put emphasis on Macbeth's downfall, line 133-141 - "why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair" , this

  2. What do you find most dramatically effective and interesting about the supernatural in 'Macbeth' ...

    (Act I, Scene I, l.4) This line may seem peculiar to the audience mainly because it is a paradox, "When the battle's lost and won" The battle cannot be lost and won for the same side or army, so the witches are speaking in riddles, also suggesting that they are

  1. The extent to which the supernatural contributes to Macbeth’s tragedy

    The witches are somehow awaiting the arrival of Macbeth before he actually comes. From the opening scene Shakespeare creates ambiguity and an air of mystery with the witches by using rhythm rhyme to set them aside from the other character.

  2. How Does Shakespeare Make the Presentation of Lady Macbeth Dramatically Effective?

    Lady Macbeth is now acting like one of the three witches, chanting a spell to change her. At the start of the play where we are told that Macbeth almost cut someone in half, this is why it was so hard to believe that Lady Macbeth is stronger than Macbeth.

  1. How dramatically effective is Shakespeare's presentation of the witches in Macbeth?

    Normal characters in Macbeth do not use this language, and so the witches stand out from the rest of the cast. Throughout the play, the witches speak in riddles, and due to these riddles Macbeth hears only what he wants to hear, instead of the absolute truth that is given to him by the witches.

  2. Examine the presentation of the witches in Macbeth.

    The witches' prophecies bear resemblance to astrology or tarot cards today. Some people find they have stereotypical beliefs that therefore make the play have some significance that, subconsciously, they cannot escape from. This helps to portray the play as it was recognized in Elizabethan times, as Shakespeare was able to


    In both versions the witches say, 'When the battle's lost, and won.' This lets us know that the witches plan to meet Macbeth after the battle. By saying that particular line it causes us to think of ideas as to why the witches will want to meet Macbeth.

  2. Discuss Shakespeares presentation of the witches in Macbeth.

    Lady Macbeth helps persuade her husband to murder Duncan while he is a guest at their castle. Malcolm, son and heir to Duncan, flees to England. Macbeth, now King, has Banquo murdered, whose ghost subsequently appears to him at a banquet.

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