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

Discuss the role and importance of the witches and the supernatural in Macbeth

Extracts from this document...


Discuss the role and importance of the witches and the supernatural in Macbeth Macbeth opens with the distinct feeling of evil, as the witches dramatically enter with thunder and lightening. They converse in rhyme, and chant about thunder, lightning, fog and filthy air. This introduces Macbeth as a dark, dangerous play, in which the theme of evil is central. Shakespeare's Macbeth is a tragedy, based around a character full of powerful contradictions. Macbeth is a man who, for the sake of his own ambition, is willing to murder the king and his own best friend. At the same time Macbeth has a conscience so strong that the mere thought and realization of his crimes torments him constantly. The line 'Fair is foul and foul is fair' echoes this contradiction and shows that in the play Macbeth, nothing is as it seems, and everything stems from the idea of illusion superseding reality. Shakespeare's audience would have perceived Macbeth to be a very real and daunting play, because of Jacobeans' strong beliefs in witchcraft and the supernatural. Witches were believed capable of killing humans and animals, becoming invisible, bringing madness or possession by evil spirits, raising storms, bringing on day or holding back night, and predicting the future. The historical portrayal of witches as 'ugly old hags' originates from folklore, where women who were not interested in child bearing and having sexual relationships with men were called witches. Child bearing has special ties with the play Macbeth, because of Lady Macbeth and the hints at her inability to have children. ...read more.


This line is chanted to call upon evil to come and overturn the ideas of good and bad, and to twist and distort nature. I think it also hints that the human soul, which is both fair and foul due to human conscience and immoral ambition is about to be assaulted, because we soon learn that a brave war hero; Macbeth, is going to be the witches unsuspecting victim. The next scene that the witches appear in is Act 1 scene 3, where Macbeth and Banquo are told that Macbeth is to become the Thane of Cawdor, and then the king, and that Banquo's descendants are to become kings. As soon as Macbeth enters, his first line is "So foul and fair a day I have not seen." This example of dramatic irony suggests that supernatural influences are already beginning to take over Macbeth, and later in the scene Banquo describes him as being 'rapt,' meaning that he seems to be in a trance, implying that the witches have put a spell on Macbeth. Already he seems obsessed with the witches and their prophecies, and it appears they have struck a chord, or touched on some hidden thought deep in Macbeth's mind. I think it's likely that Macbeth had been imagining ways of becoming king or gaining power before, and this new prophecy of the witches managed to tip the balance between what he knew to be fantasy, and what was possible in reality. Macbeth's actions in this scene are quite contradictory, before the witches vanish he commands them to: "stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more." ...read more.


Is the voice he was supposed to have heard the witches? With his overwhelming sense of guilt, and his growing paranoia he feels he'll 'sleep no more.' Later on in the play Lady Macbeth suffers insomnia, and sleepwalks in a mysterious dream world, which eventually leads to her suicide, reflecting her secret inability to cope with the guilt; "who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him!" I think that the supernatural sleeplessness in Macbeth is connected to the witches and their reversal of good and evil. As Macbeth and lady Macbeth's duplicity grows they pay the price by not being able to sleep without having nightmares, a penance which eventually results in death. The first clue of pure evil in Macbeth comes when the witches announce it, with "Fair is foul and foul is fair" Macbeth's first echoing words, "So foul and fair a day I have not seen" instantly link his destiny with their evil. Macbeth is a timeless play, because of its universality through the ages. Although themes such as the supernatural will be interpreted differently over time, because of people's change in culture and belief, we can still relate back to Shakespeare's day, because of what the witches and the supernatural symbolize. In the 21st century there is much more corruption and evil then the witches of King James I could ever have created, so in a way Macbeth is as relevant as contemporary plays. It stands for the age-old disaster of ambition and power, which is basic human nature, and could be the fatal flaw of any person, living in any century. Rosie Carr First Draft 1 ...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. Peer reviewed

    Discuss the Role Played by the Witches in the Tragedy of Macbeth

    3 star(s)

    Here we see a reference to the supernatural. Even the word "spirits" adds to the atmosphere. After a messenger has entered, told Lady Macbeth her husband was coming and left, Lady Macbeth starts another speech. This speech itself is very witch-like. This is another indication of the witches influence spreading.

  2. How do the Witches in Macbeth Reflect contemporary ideas of witchcraft? Are the Witches ...

    My dearest love..." Lady Macbeth's greeting is the first line of the quote while Macbeth's greeting is the second line. Lady Macbeth's welcome only contains status and titles for Macbeth showing that she has no love for him. Macbeth's salutation however has 'dearest' and 'love' in it telling us that he cares for her on a deep level.

  1. The Importance of the Witches In Macbeth

    This is like the start of a spell, as the words are read as an almost chant. This shows them to speak and cast spells like real witches. This shows that they seem to be 'real' witches who cast spells which have effects on things, in this case Macbeth.

  2. Malory's Magical Medieval Women - The Role and Importance of Women in Le Morte ...

    However, whilst I believe that this is indicative of her power as a character, it is Lancelot who rescues her and thus takes control. Lancelot's loyalty to Guinevere causes him, in his anxiety to protect her, to unwittingly destroy the man he loves most - Gareth, Gawain's brother; and it

  1. Examine the role of the witches in Macbeth.

    This line has a strong aural quality, and the rhyming of 'drum' and 'come' creates a sound like a heartbeat, or a drum signifying war. This creates uncertainty in the audience's mind, and prepares them for an ominous scene. Throughout the first scene of the play the witches are presented

  2. What role does the supernatural play in 'Macbeth'?

    (A.1 S.1), one witch was a beggar 'Give me, quoth I, Aroint thee, witch the rump fed runnion cries.' It was not uncommon at the time Macbeth was written for the poor to be the first accused of witchery. Yet later on (A.1 S.3)

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

    Banquo is saying that because the witches have told one truth, so that we trust them, but they might deceive us in ones that are more important. This does not convert Macbeth into thinking that they might not be speaking truth in being King, but puts him in the opposite direction.

  2. How would an audience in the time if Shakespeare reacts to the role of ...

    Familiars are such as black cats, frogs and toads, sparrows. These are said to be their link to the devil. The witches speak of a grey cat and toad. "I come Greymalkin!" "Paddock Calls" The Greymalkin being a grey cat and Paddock a toad.

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