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How Important Is The Role Of The Supernatural In This Play? How Does Shakespeare’s Use Of The Supernatural Reflect Attitudes And Beliefs Of The Time?

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How Important Is The Role Of The Supernatural In This Play? How Does Shakespeare's Use Of The Supernatural Reflect Attitudes And Beliefs Of The Time? The supernatural, obviously including the witches, has a huge role in Macbeth, the play; if not in history. Their role is to interest the audience of the time, to add a twist, and also to lead the play on - as such narrating it. The play is about power; getting and abusing it - hence why it is in a black and white fashion; and ambition. The witches have power, Lady Macbeth has power over her husband, but is ambitious - craving more, and Macbeth also seeks more power through ambition. The power the witches have is one for corruption, and they manage to corrupt Macbeth. They seem to know their victims very well, and can derive their deepest desires. The image Shakespeare is trying to portray is one where witches are evil, devil praising, and dangerous - being able to read minds. They manage to bring to life the ambition of their victim so vividly that the victim can do nothing but desire even more than previously. It the case of Macbeth, it drove him to murder. The witches are put in the play simply because of the beliefs of the time, and because of James I's personal interest in witches. ...read more.


(Act 4 Scene 1) - a disgusting brew which brings on premonitions. Shakespeare also knew of King James I's beliefs and encounters with witches. He understood how interested the King was, and so wrote it for his enjoyment. The King had, in 1590, discovered a witches' plot to kill him, and the accused were stood on trial. Indeed, one with, Agnes Sampson, claimed to do many unholy and supernatural acts. In 1597, King James wrote Demonology - a book about witchcraft. With such a frenzy about the supernatural going on in the early 17th Century, Shakespeare had the good sense of mind to introduce this phenomenon into his play - everyone at the time was very interested, and so drawn to watch it. Shakespeare also seemed to have an advanced knowledge of the effects of stress for his time. Macbeth is obviously very stressed with the idea of killing, and his inner self, at least, knows that what he is doing is wrong. Hallucinations, and the Ghost Scene, are a big part of this - today we know that stress may well promote hallucinating. In Act 2 Scene 1, before the murder of Duncan, the realisation of what he is about to do reaches Macbeth: 'Is this a dagger which I see before me,' Macbeth knows that he will use a dagger to perform the dreadful deed. ...read more.


From Act 2 Scene 4, an old man and Ross discuss strange events, which neither can really explain - they blame the supernatural. The old man explains how: 'A falcon towering in her pride of place Was by a mousing owl hawked at, and killed.' (Act 2 Scene 4). This event is very strange. The owl, who is a low flyer, should be killed by the falcon circling overhead, but against the laws of nature, the owl kills the falcon - there is no plausible explanation. Ross then details how Duncan's horses turned wild and began to eat each other. This is certainly unnatural, and demonic possession could be believed to be the cause. Another happening in Macbeth, which is now accepted as ordinary, is that of sleepwalking, which Lady Macbeth does in Act 5 Scene 1. The characters in this part of the play, a gentlewoman and a doctor, watch as she proceeds to reinact her performance of the night of Duncan's murder. The doctor seems to have some idea of what is happening. He believes that she has done unnatural things, leading to sleepwalking, which is classed as supernatural: 'Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds Do breed unnatural troubles; infected minds To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.' (Act 5 Scene 1). The doctor certainly seems to believe that there is nothing he can do for her, suggesting looking for a priest, rather than a doctor: 'More needs she the divine than the physician.' (Act 5 Scene 1). ...read more.

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