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

Discuss the role of the witches in the play 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare.

Extracts from this document...


Mikhaila Chowdhury G.C.S.E Coursework English: Pre-1900 Drama Literature: Social, historical and cultural background. Discuss the role of the witches in the play 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare Shakespeare has made the witches and their prophecies play a major part in the storyline and overall feeling of the play Macbeth. When he was returning from Denmark after his marriage, James first came in contact with witchcraft. A coven of witches in North Berwickshire had tried to practice the black arts against him. Being unable to obtain any of his clothes, they had christened a cat, tied to it parts of the body of a dead man and carried it out to sea before the town of Leith, 'sailing in their riddles or sieves'. They raised a storm which delayed the King's return and wrecked a ship carrying gifts for his new Queen. The Danes on the ship convinced him that the bad weather was caused by witchcraft. James at first doubted this story, but agreed that the winds had been strangely contrary to his own ship, and he was finally convinced. The play 'Macbeth' displays many Elizabethan beliefs about witches and witchcraft. For instance, they believed that witches could raise evil spirits by concocting a brew from disgusting ingredients. ...read more.


These prophecies have major influence on Macbeth's actions. Macbeth seems happy and content with himself until the witches tell him he will be king. He begins immediately to consider murdering Duncan and this is shown in Act 1, Scene 3 when Macbeth says, 'If good, why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature?' After he is named king, Macbeth has much insecurity which is formed after his meeting with the witches. He has lost his sense of pride and courageousness, which are now replaced by constant feelings of guilt and anxiety. Macbeth's feeling of inferiority to Banquo lead Macbeth to arrange for the murder of Banquo and his son, Fleance. When Banquo has left Macbeth alone, Macbeth starts to reveal his innermost thoughts. An example of the friction in their relationship is exposed when Macbeth expresses how wary he is of Banquo. 'He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour To act in safety. There is none but he Whose being I do fear; and under him My genius is rebuked, as, it is said, Mark Antony's was by Caesar.' ...read more.


Lady Macbeth first learns of the witches' words from a letter which Macbeth sends to her. She intends to influence him to kill Duncan as she feels that Macbeth may not be evil enough to go through with the murder. The words which Lady Macbeth say after reading the letter suggest that there is an immediate change in her way of thinking. . 'Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine ear And chastise with the valour of my tongue All that impedes thee from the golden round, Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem To have thee crown'd withal.' The predictions have made Lady Macbeth confident and more dominant. They have changed her personality as she has suddenly become the more dominant partner, forcing her husband to kill the King. After Macbeth has killed the King, he ponders over what he has done. He cannot pull himself together and keeps thinking of the terrible crime which he has committed. Lady Macbeth can only stand-by and watch him fall apart. She does not seem to be bothered about what they have done. An example of this is in the last scene of act 1 where she begins to question his pride. 'When you durst do it, then you were a man. And to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man.' ...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
  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work