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Discuss Shakespeares presentation of the witches in act one.

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Orla King 11C Macbeth Coursework Discuss Shakespeares presentation of the witches in act one You should consider: -Their function and importance in the play -Methods used by Shakespear to present the Witches -The reactions of other characters -Audience reaction, both then and now When Shakespeare wrote this play in 1606 a large majority of people were interested in witchcraft. King James was so fascinated by witches that he wrote an article about them in 1957 called 'Demonologie�. So this is why Shakespeare has made the witches and the witches� prophecies play a major part in the storyline and overall feeling of the play Macbeth. In the time of Macbeth witches were not thought to be supernatural beings themselves, but supposedly gained their powers by selling their souls to Satan, and were then instructed and controlled by 'familiar spirits�. The existence of witchcraft was recognised by English law - an act of 1604 made the practice of it punishable by death - but it was by no means unquestioned. There can be little doubt that most of Shakespeare's audience would have believed in witches, and for the purpose of the play, at least, Shakespeare also accepted their reality. The three witches in the tragedy Macbeth are introduced right at the beginning of the play and the brief opening few scenes give an immediate impression of mystery, horror and uncertainty. ...read more.


The witches in Macbeth are typical of seventeenth century witches. They have supernatural powers, they can predict the future e.g. Predicting when the battle of Cawdor will end, they can turn into things e.g. Rats, they can hover, they can change the weather e.g. I'll give thee a wind, they can stop people sleeping. The witches all chant and speak in rhyme and riddle, which is a traditional feature of a seventeenth century real witch. There are three witches. The witches as well as being typical of real witches in the seventeenth century are also disorderly and chaotic like dreams, they both do not keep to spatial reality or time, there are both blurry you never seem to see the full picture, they both show some connection to real life because the witches seem to show what Macbeth desires are and how he can get the, just like a fantasy dream might show what we want and desire. What Macbeth wants is more power and more power for him is to become the king and the witches just like our dreams would present us with what it would be like but the witches go further than dreams and tell him how he could obtain his desires. Both dreams and the witches are unrealistic; they do not conform to an ordinary structure. ...read more.


So the actresses playing the witches would have had to be very expressive, loud and over exaggerated to be heard and to capture the audiences attention. Today we have a different prospect of witches. We do not see them as a threat to us in this modern society but as something out of a fairy tale. The audience today would not feel as threatened as the people who first saw the scene performed in 1606 because witches aren't talked about and feared as they were back then. Instead in modern theatres we use lighting and sound effects to try and enhance the audiences fear. Another function of the witches in Macbeth is as an embarrassment they wander into this otherwise serious play and mutter mumbo-jumbo about toads and liver. They are like an uninvited guest who keeps on reappearing. I believe that if we took the witches out of Macbeth it would make no sense as they bring everything together. The witches have a clearer idea of what is going on than anyone else does. They are closer to the audience's point of view than anyone else in the play. They are practically the narrators. I conclude that the witches main function in Macbeth is to make comparison between Macbeths conscious, real world and Macbeths unconscious, dream world. However, they serve many other functions, which would be absurd to overlook if you wanted to see the full picture of why the witches are in Macbeth. ...read more.

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