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Examine the presentation of the witches in Macbeth.

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Introduction

Examine the presentation of the witches in Macbeth Macbeth is one of the better-known plays written by Shakespeare, where the audience are drawn to sympathise with a cold-blooded murderer. Convinced by his wife and the witches' prophecies, that he shall become King, Macbeth's fatal ambition results in his downfall. Macbeth was written during a period where many women were tried for witchcraft, and they were subsequently executed. As well as this, women were persecuted and misogyny was an accepted issue of every day life. Many Elizabethans believed, that witches controlled almost every aspect of their existence, they were able to predict the future and change the weather Shakespeare took this as his back ground and displays them in Macbeth, making the play very much a product of the time, however, the play still enjoys the same reactions today because of Shakespeare's use of imagery and themes of which blood and guilt appear frequently. This allows the modern day audience to find relevance with it, despite the play's age. Earlier audiences would describe Macbeth and his Lady as seized by demonic possession. Amen/ stuck in my throat. (Act 2 scene 2) Macbeth's inability to pray shows that he has been ensnared by evil. Come, you spirits (Act 1 scene 5) Here lady Macbeth's inviting of evil spirits to possess her would also be seen to be abnormal, even in today's society. She is inviting the consequences of believing in the witch's prophecies. ...read more.

Middle

This is where the fair is foul phrase would involve the witches themselves creating a sense that there appearance is a disguise and in effect the beards and wild exterior hides their fairness so foul is fair, this could explain Banquo's confusion at the beginning of the scene. Banquo goes on to describe them as "fantastical" (imaginary) he feels his logic has been taken away, he is so perplexed he feels that he is hallucinating. Have we eaten on the insane root, (Act 1 scene 3) Shakespeare creates an eerie atmosphere when the witches enter they are clouded by mist and are shrouded by thunder. I imagine them to talk quietly under the thunder and the mist gives a sense of mystery. The audience begin to associate the coming of the witches with these intimidating devices and they create a degree of suspense. The scenes before and after the witch scenes are also important in creating the right ambience. Shakespeare may use the change of scene to isolate the witches or to enhance the similarities between them and characters like Macbeth. The first time we see the witches we go from a desolate heath to an army camp. The use of antithesis spoken by Duncan echoes what the witches have said in the previous scene What he has lost, noble Macbeth has won (Act 1 scene 2) When the hurly-burly's done when the battle lost and won. ...read more.

Conclusion

When the witches hail Banquo with this title Macbeth was too preoccupied with what had been said before to realise what this might mean. Finally the witches' prediction comes true and Macduff, Banquo's son prevails king of Scotland after killing Macbeth. Ironically it was the witches who convinced Macbeth that Macduff was not a threat by stating no man born of a woman would ever harm Macbeth (Act 4 scene 1) tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb untimely ripped (Act 5 scene 8) The witches force Macbeth to turn on his friends as they make him believe they are a threat. Macbeth is being manipulated; the reason that the witches succeed is that they made Macbeth feel that it was his own doing. The witches are crucial in the play, and without the witches, to bring up the suggestion Macbeth's ambition he would not have realised it, however with the lack of Lady Macbeth he may not have met the same fate. Lady Macbeth's ambition, to be queen, was almost as strong as Macbeth's to be king, therefore giving her the perfect motive to encourage Macbeth. The witches are central to Macbeth's downfall because everything he did was subject to their predictions. His death was the result of his belief in the witches' use of equivocation that no man born of a woman would hurt him, among others. Overall I feel that the witches represent the part of Macbeth that he did not see until the suggestion of his power was foretold. The witches are a portrayal of Macbeth's evil within him. 1 ...read more.

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