• 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...

Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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)

    He is very polite and grateful for her allowing them to stay. Lady Macbeth tells him she is glad to have him staying. This is quite ironic. The king thinks she is being gracious but in fact she has her own plans for him. Lady Macbeth escorts him to Macbeth.

  2. 'What is the role of the supernatural in the play Macbeth?'

    The dagger points to Duncan's room and appears to be covered in blood. The dagger buttresses the impact of this key scene in which Macbeth slays Duncan. Macbeth cannot tell if it is imaginary or real, these visions are symbols of evil in the world and the evil growing in Macbeth's heart.

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

    Lady Macbeth in her soliloquy, speaks to the spirit world, and asks to be 'unsexed,' this links in with the issue about the gender of the witches. How at this level of evil, it was believed in Elizabethan times, one becomes neautral.

  2. Discuss the importance of the witches and Supernatural to 'Macbeth'

    there is always the area between where sometimes good is evil and evil is good. Because the witches use paradoxes such as "fair is foul and foul is fair" they hint that evil is good and good is evil, which would frighten the audience because of their beliefs.

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

    the witches have told him three truths and he starts believing that he can become King. In Act 1 scene 3, Macbeth is questioning and examining weather, the Witches are good or bad. "This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill, cannot be good."

  2. Discuss the importance of the Supernatural in William Shakespeare's

    Shakespeare uses blood imagery to describe the dagger- "Gouts of blood", this is a strong description, and creates a vivid picture of the bloody dagger in you mind. The dagger confuses Macbeth, as he cannot understand if it is a trick of the mind, or if his eyes are deceiving him- "A false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain".

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

    couldn't become true, but at the same time any security Macbeth found in his prediction from the witches would also disappear. Macbeth therefore inadvertently tried to destroy any safety he found in the witch's all seeing eyes. This suggests that Macbeth is a bit ignorant of the consequences and that he is starting to lose control of clear thinking.

  2. Explore the way the theme of the supernatural is presented in Macbeth and The ...

    There is a clear message to the audience that to kill a King is unnatural. ?The Withered Arm? also has supernatural happenings which shape the direction of the story. This time however, the setting is a small, rural, superstitious community in fictional Wessex.

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