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Macbeth- The Witches

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Macbeth- The Witches It could be said that the witches in 'Macbeth', are possibly some of the best known characters in Shakespeare's work. With famous words like 'Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble', it is true to say that they have probably heavily influenced the depiction of witches in later works to a great extent. The play derives from a time when witchcraft was something of great public concern. Extreme persecution of anyone found to be practising something that could be interpreted as 'black arts' was common in Stuart society. (Old women who kept cats were in extreme danger of meeting the requirements for stereotypical 'witch') The play, which tells the fate, of the Scottish royal family, had real-life connections with the Scottish royal family at the time. The character Banquo was supposedly a relative of King James who was the King of Scotland. (Although it has been discovered that he never existed, he was made up at the birth of the Stuart dynasty) The heavy influences of the witches on the play, also matched King James's interest in Demonology. So the question has been asked was 'Macbeth' written for King James? Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries 'witches', were terrifying but also fascinating to the general public. During this time hundreds of witches were persecuted, and were hung or burnt at stake. Witches were so greatly feared, because of the apparent 'powers' which they possessed, which allegedly included; the ability to fly, the ability to raise storms and control the weather, possession of people, and an ability to kill livestock. ...read more.


Eventually his crimes are too much and Macbeth is overthrown and killed by the true heir to the throne. Much as this is a fairly good storyline, when you add in the witches it becomes a great story. (Indeed Macbeth is recognised as a theatrical masterpiece) The witches add many new dimensions and contrasts and raise many questions. Like is fate fixed? What is the balance between good and evil? What the witches do is enter the play and tell Macbeth his prophecy, by doing this they set Macbeth off exploiting an ambitious flaw in his personality. One question that surrounds the play is whether the witches possess Macbeth and make him commit the crimes, or whether they merely use an ability to predict the future, to set Macbeth off. After this Macbeth's ambition drives him on to commit many murders and a regicide. Well there is certainly evidence within the play that Macbeth is possessed. When he meets the witches for the first time he is obsessed with them and maybe this is the beginning of his possession. Macbeth also shows stereotypical signs of possession in his behaviour and speech: in Act 1 Scene 3 when Macbeth first comes across the witches Banquo says "look how our partner's rapt" because Macbeth appears to be entranced; which was a typical sign of possession. Also he shows an inability to pray, in Act 2 Scene 2 he says "Amen, stuck in my throat" being unable to pray was linked to the fact that according to 17th century folk-lore the possessed was being controlled by a minion of Satan. ...read more.


This can appear eerie to watchers, as it conveys strength in the form of unit efficiency. Sometimes the witches seem to have a telepathic ability, for example when Macbeth demands to know more about his destiny, in Act 5 Scene 1 the script looks like this: FIRST WITCH: Speak! SECOND WITCH: Demand! THIRD WITCH: We'll answer. Of course a telepathic ability is certainly not normal, and therefore this also adds to the eerie feel that surrounds the witches. 'Macbeth' is a not only an excellent play, but also manages to bring into question various philosophical and moral issues. The supernatural edge to Macbeth makes you wonder about witches and the power of evil. Are there forces of evil, which can influence us? Are good and evil internal or external? The main issue surrounding Macbeth is that of fate. Is it fixed, is our path in life set or can we change or at least influence it? What is the relationship between fate and time? If one's fate is discovered, will it influence us to either strive for this future, or if we don't like what fate holds in store, will we try to change it? However you perceive 'Macbeth', I believe it is summed up like this. Whatever it was that drove Macbeth, ambition, possession or something else entirely, it poisoned him. People are around whose ambition will be a threat to society, and if you feel it exists, then witchcraft is also a threat to society. Yet de spite of these threats, the forces of good are on the side of the innocent. Order will be restored to its rightful owners. ...read more.

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