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Discuss the role played by the witches in Macbeth - What influence do they have on events and what do they contribute to the atmosphere and dramatic impact of the play.

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Introduction

Discuss the role played by the witches in Macbeth. What influence do they have on events and what do they contribute to the atmosphere and dramatic impact of the play In Macbeth the witches make a huge contribution to the play and the way it comes across to an audience. The witches portray many themes in Macbeth, such as the theme of fate, and the way that they are supposed to have the power of changing someone's fate, and the way they can control people using their power. The witches also depict a theme of pure evil, and the way they treat others in the play shows this. Religion also is a big theme in Macbeth, references to the trinity, whether it is the unholy, or the holy trinity. Also blasphemous and sacrilegious beliefs appear often throughout the play. As well as these themes, one of the biggest is the theme of motherhood, and particular the distortion of motherhood. References to babies being killed appear which only hints at the evil that the witches bring to the play. The witches often speak about being able to change someone's fate, and in the time which Shakespeare wrote Macbeth people had strong beliefs about this as does Macbeth who speaks about fate often. This also hints at the connections between the witches and Macbeth. "Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel" Here the captain is talking about Macbeth's victory over the Norwegians. ...read more.

Middle

Not only does this show that Macbeth starts the play seeming to be in sync with the witches but that he makes strange and contradictory comments. The fact that the witches share a similar mentality to the main character in the play shows that they must play an important role in the events of the play and therefore have a large dramatic impact on it. In act 1 scene 3 Macbeth and Banquo communicate with the witches for the first time. This scene is very important for seeing how Macbeth compares to the witches because you can make a direct comparison between the way Macbeth reacts to the witches and the way Banquo reacts. "Speak if you can. What are you?" Straight away you can see that Macbeth is not scared of the witches but intrigued by them. The first thing he says to them is a demand that they speak, then he asks them what they are. Macbeth's frank confrontation of the witches shows that he is almost comfortable around them, which is a very unusual way to treat beings that are said to have the power to control the elements and peoples fate. Banquo's reaction to the witches on the other hand is very different. He seems to almost be afraid of the witches, as if he is scared of them taking control of him. Banquo also seems to be very cautious of the way that he asks the witches to speak to him "Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear Your favours nor your hate." ...read more.

Conclusion

The way in which the witches add items to their cauldron is almost like a religious chant, which ties in with the theme of religion. The chant is very effective in getting across the way in which they are adding things and what they are adding, which, again adds to the effect of the witches on the audience and the play in general. "How now, you secret black and midnight hags!" This line shows the change the witches have made on Macbeth throughout the course of the play. Macbeth now greets the witches as if they are friends, which is obviously a dangerous thing to do, because if he treats them like friends it means he trusts them. The fact that Macbeth trusts the witches' shows that his ambition and power hungry nature have taken over the way he thinks, and it has taken away the little caution he had in the first place. The witches appear to be taking advantage of Macbeth's ambitious nature and they are using it against him, to get him to trust them more and more. Even thought they never lie to Macbeth they only ever tell him half-truths, which ends up misleading him as he does not think to work out what the witches are telling him. Also Macbeth, because he becomes completely absorbed by his new found power he becomes very cocky, and decides to ignore the fact that there maybe a threat to his life because he doesn't think about what could happen to him. ...read more.

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