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Macbeth. The impact of the witches on audiences then and now.

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Introduction

THE IMPACT OF THE WITCHES ON THE AUDIENCE THEN AND NOW William Shakespeare wrote the play, Macbeth, for King James in 1606. For many people living in the early 17th Century, there was a strong belief in witchcraft and the supernatural. Witches were perceived as evil, sub-human and servants of the devil. Shakespeare therefore introduced the witches knowing that they would grip an audience as anything to do with witchcraft would strike fear. In England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, specific laws against witchcraft were passed. Therefore, the audience's in Shakespeare's time would have reacted to the opening scene and subsequent scenes involving the witches very seriously, as many would have had an almost hysterical fear of witches. They may have analysed what was being said by the witches more closely than any other characters. The audiences of the day may have been both frightened and intrigued to see the evil of the witches manifested physically on stage. Today of course, witches are perceived by the general population as something to laugh at and are seen as daft women who practise silly spells on hillsides. ...read more.

Middle

The Thane of Cawdor has betrayed the King, and King Duncan bestows this title onto Macbeth, saying, "No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive Our bosom interest. - Go, pronounce, his present death, And with his former title greet Macbeth." "What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won." The audience are intrigued to discover who Macbeth is. Hence Shakespeare provides the audience with a dramatic anticipation. They are left to wonder what Macbeth's association is with these sinister characters. How does he fit into their plans? Shakespeare also portrays the witches to be both telepathic, having the ability to foresee the future and possessing supernatural and evil powers. Shakespeare also uses the way the witches speak in order to produce dramatic effect. They are made to sound more evil and sinister by the fact that they speak differently to the rest of the characters. They speak in almost chant-like-rhythm, "fair is foul, and foul is fair". The three witches are accompanied by Greymalkin (a grey cat) and Paddock (a toad). These animals are associated with witchcraft, having taken on demon-like form. Another dramatic method employed, is when Shakespeare encourages the audience to use their powers of imagination. ...read more.

Conclusion

The witches have indirectly corrupted Lady Macbeth's mind. In conclusion, before Macbeth met the witches he was regarded as a courageous warrior, a respected and noble figure, and a loyal servant to King Duncan. However, after his initial meeting, he is tempted by ambition to become King and reveals "black and deep desires". He becomes big-headed and is excited by the prospect of becoming King. By the end of the play Macbeth is viewed as a traitor to his King and country, a devious, deceitful and ruthless man, and above all a cold-blooded murderer. In fact Malcolm compares Macbeth to a butcher "This dead butcher and fiend-like queen." His subsequent actions after his initial meeting with the witches cause his downfall and ultimately cost him his life. The contrast in Macbeth at the very beginning of the play and at the very end of the play could not be greater. The main theme of the play concentrates on the battle between good and evil. Macbeth's fate runs alongside the moral story of the play. During the play we can acknowledge those characters that represent good but it is the main character, Macbeth, who under the influence of the three witches represents evil. ...read more.

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