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Discuss the dramatic importance of the Witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

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Introduction

Elizabeth Austin Discuss the dramatic importance of the Witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. In Macbeth the supernatural and the witches are very important in the play. In this essay I will be discussing the language, dramatic devices, the historical context and the appeal to the audience that this play would have had. Not all of this great tragedy was made up by Shakespeare, between 1040 and 1057 Scotland was ruled by a man named Macbeth. The real Macbeth was a rival of King Duncan 1, according to: Ralph Holinshed's chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, Macbeth had met three women in evil apparel who made certain prophecies. Encouraged by his wife and aided by his friend Banquo, Macbeth killed Duncan and reigned honourably for many years. The real Banquo also had a son called Fleance, who escaped when Banquo was killed. Also in Holinshed's chronicles there was a story of a man called King Duff who was murdered by Donwald and his wife when the king was staying as their guest. Shakespeare combined these two stories and came up with the plot of Macbeth. The king of England at the time Macbeth was written was king James 1, the play would have appealed to king James as it showed the downfall of a ...read more.

Middle

King James would have been interested in this because of his experience of witches raising a storm to try and kill him. It also proves to the audience that the witches intend to do what they do and that it is not by accident. The dramatic effect on the audience would be that they would be worried about Macbeth and they would be wondering what the witches would do to him. The things that the witches say they will do show the powers they were thought to possess, for example: "But in a sieve I'll thither sail" A Shakespearean audience would have considered sailing in a sieve to be a mode of transport used by witches and they would have taken the comment seriously. Today that belief would be disregarded, as not many people still believe in witches and supernatural powers. The witch's tale links in with what they do to Macbeth because they torture Macbeth but do not directly cause his death, just as they propose to torture the sailor but they do not propose to actually kill him. When Macbeth and Banquo enter Macbeth's language mirrors the witches: "So fair and foul a day I have not seen." ...read more.

Conclusion

This would have shocked the audience because it is so cruel. Before Macbeth visits the witches in act 4 scene1 the witches are mixing a potion to show Macbeth the three apparitions, some of the ingredients of the potion are disgusting for example: the mummy of a dead witch, the liver of a blaspheming Jew and the gut of a salt-sea shark. These ingredients show how evil the witches are, as all of the above ingredients would involve killing and death. As Macbeth purposely looks for the witches in this scene the audience would see that he is in the grip of evil. This meeting affects Macbeth by causing him to send his men to kill Macduff's family, because Macbeth believes that time is getting the better of him so he will act as soon as he thinks of them: "Time, thou anticipat'st my dread exploits: the flighty purpose never is o'ertook unless the deed go with it." Here Shakespeare is using Personification, talking about time as if time is a person. I think that Shakespeare chose to use personification because it is as if Macbeth is thinking out loud. After each meeting with the witches Macbeth commits murder, I think that this is important because it makes you think that the witches mean to do evil and that they have an evil influence over Macbeth. ...read more.

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