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Macbeth - The Role of the Witches

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Macbeth The Role of the Witches A twisted tail of jealousy and fate. Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's tragic plays was written in 1606. Set in Scotland, it tells the story of one man's greed, triggered and encouraged by 'three weird sisters'. With their premonition start the rise and fall of Macbeth. In the time that this play was written many people believed that witches carried great powers. They in themselves were not very powerful, but by selling their souls to satan gained powers, and were instructed and controlled by familiar spirits. In 1604 Parliament made the practice of witchcraft punishable by death. There is an almost certainty that Shakespeare's audiences would have believed in witches, and for the purpose of the play, Shakespeare would also have accepted their reality. Even the King of the time, James I was fascinated by witches. He believed that a storm he had been in was the creation of witches to kill him. In 1557 he wrote an article on witches called 'Demonology'. This is one of the reasons why Shakespeare has made the witches and the witches' prophecy play a large part in the story line, and the overall feeling of the play. The three witches are introduced to us as readers right at the beginning of the play. In the first few sentences there is a feeling of mystery, horror and uncertainty. ...read more.


There is a repeated chant in which they all join in: 'Dabble, dabble, toil and trouble: fire burn and cauldron bubble'. The alliteration with the repeated sounds 'd' and 'b' make the chant sound very powerful and very catchy. From an early point in the play, Lady Macbeth is introduced to us as an ambitious woman with a single purpose. She can manipulate Macbeth easily as shown 'That I may pour my spirits in thine ear' Act 1 Scene 5 Line 24 She wants to influence Macbeth and states: 'Come, you spirits that tend on mortal things, unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe' Act 1 Scene 5 Line 38 She is selfless, and wants what she thinks is best for her husband. Macbeth has decided not to go through with killing the King, but Lady Macbeth has other ideas and manipulates Macbeth's self-esteem by playing on his manliness and bravery. Macbeth is convinced to kill the king by this; he is like a young impressionable child who is easily guided. Lady Macbeth realises this and uses it to its fullest advantage. It appears that Macbeth is liable to do anything that Lady Macbeth wants him to do. He loves her and wants to make her happy. Lady Macbeth dominates, and if she 'pushes the right buttons' will get what she wants. 'Are thou afeared to be the same thine own act and valour, as thou art in desire?' ...read more.


He starts to go crazy on the night he kills Duncan and many strange things start to happen. Macbeth has a vision of a dagger which leads him to Duncan's room, Lenox strangely heard screaming and the weather turned into a raging storm. The horses eat each other, and a falcon is killed by an owl. These strange unnatural events, especially the imaginary dagger, show that Macbeth is not fully in control of his own actions and is being influenced by evil. Everyone is responsible for his own destiny. There is an essential theme to this tragedy. Macbeth chooses to gamble with his soul and when he does, it is only him who chooses to loose it. He is responsible for his own actions and must be accountable for what he does. He made these final decisions and continued with the killings to cover up the killing of King Duncan. Whereas some facts show that the results were all of his own doing. In Act 4 he returns to the witches voluntarily to find out his fate to see what actions he must take. This suggests that the witches did have a great influence on his actions. He has now become dependant on being told what to do and has run out of his own ideas. The witches do a very good job of enticing Macbeth, but in the end it is his own decision to fall for the temptation or be strong enough to resist the temptation. Unfortunately, he chooses the first. By Sarah Cowling ...read more.

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