• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Show that, in the play "Macbeth", Shakespeare has conformed to the common superstitions and traditions of his time

Extracts from this document...


Show that, in the play "Macbeth", Shakespeare has conformed to the common superstitions and traditions of his time "Macbeth" being William Shakespeare's shortest play was published in 1623 though written in 1606 with a story line from Raphael Holinshed's "Chronicles of Scotland" which was first published in 1578. It tells the reader accounts of the lives of King Duncan, King Kennet and King Macbeth. Shakespeare was inspired and these literary materials provided the main matter on which Shakespeare based his play on. It is evident through the similarity between act 1 scene 3 of "Macbeth" and what is said in the "Chronicle of King Duncan"- 'Macbeth and Banquho journeyed towards Fores... without other companie save only themselves... when soddenly, in the middles of launde, there met them 3 women in strange and ferly apparel, resembling(creatues of an elder worlde); whom attentively behelde, wondering much at sight.' However, Shakespeare also added in many common superstitions and traditions of the early seventeenth century to represent the beliefs of many during his time. During Shakespeare's time, after Christianity has been established, the works of the devil became associated with witches. A strong superstition in witchcraft and its powers was developed. Books like Reginald Scot's "Discovery of witchcraft" (1584) and Goth's "Faust" are evidence of this. ...read more.


"All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!" "All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!" to Banquo, they say: "Thou shalt get Kings, though thou be none." Macbeth, after he had been crowned King, decides to return to the witches' cave and find out more about what the future holds in store for him, as he realises that the prophecies all come true. The witches have proved to Macbeth that their powers do work. In Act 4 Scene 1, their powers to foresee future events are shown once again but this time in the form of apparitions. "Beware Macduff" they tell Macbeth, but yet "none of women born shall harm Macbeth". The last apparition says, "Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until great Birnham Wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him." These incantations are superbly nasty and in a way contradict each other, but at the same time makes Macbeth fall into some false sense of security and makes him believe that he is infallible and indestructible as the last two apparitions both sound beyond the bounds of possibility. The witches have taken over Macbeth's mind and I believe that they are responsible for the deterioration of Macbeth's character later. However, the nature of their powers is still ambiguous. ...read more.


Thus, among the revolting ingredients of the cauldron, we find "slips of yew silver'd in the moon's eclipse". A lunar eclipse was commonly seen to be a sign of disaster and in this case, the disaster can bee seen as the tragedy of Macbeth. As the "hell-broth" was being prepared for the charm, the witches chanted the chorus rhythmically. These actions all show the power of evil that the witches possess and gave the people of Shakespeare's time a better understanding of what witches were capable of doing. People always say "there's luck in odd numbers" and we constantly observe in the play the use of magical three and its multiples. For example, there were three witches who gave Macbeth three predictions and showed him three apparitions. Through their speeches, this belief is also confirmed: Act 1 Scene 1, 1: "when shall we three meet again?" Act 1 Scene 3,22: "Weary sen' nights nine times nine" In Act 4 scene 1, while the three witches were casting the spell, there are strong references to the number three: "Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd thrice and once the hedge-pig whined." The witches also repeated the chorus to the spell three times: "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble." During the apparitions, they yet again repeated Macbeth's name thrice and it therefore shows that three and its multiples were considered to have magical powers. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Macbeth section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Macbeth essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    Discuss the Role Played by the Witches in the Tragedy of Macbeth

    3 star(s)

    SECOND WITCH: Not so happy, yet much happier. THIRD WITCH: Thou shalt get Kings, though thou be none..." The last line is most important. It basically says that Banquo will not be a king but his sons will be. This is important for later in the play. The witches predict in a different way for a reason.

  2. Macbeth - How Women Are Depicted In Act I

    This is quite unusual for a woman to be on the same level as a man because at the time women were regarded as insignificant. He later calls her his 'dearest love' which reiterates how much she means to him.

  1. How Does Shakespeare Incorporate Literary Traditions Into Macbeth?

    "Hence horrible shadow, unreal mockery hence!"(3.4.106-7) During the play Macbeth, both blank verse and prose are used in a structural way. The contrast between the flowing speech of blank verse used by the more important and well-educated characters and the ordinary speech or prose used by the more lowly or

  2. Macbeth - Women In The Play

    shows that manliness comes with murder, as it did in the battle against the Norwegians. She then pleads for the spirits to stop her feeling guilty. That means that she is not totally courageous herself, as she promised she would be.

  1. How would an audience in the time if Shakespeare reacts to the role of ...

    Is he a person of the supernatural because the first people to speak about him are the witches, or possibly is he a good man but because of what the witches believe in and will they try and bring his death to him?.


    This could mean their powers are much greater when the three of them are together. Polanski is able to make the first scene eerie and mysterious by using special effects and editing to achieve the perfect effect. As the scene ends the witches disappear into the mist, the sounds of

  1. Illustrate How The Play Develops As A Tragedy And Analyse The Relative Elements In ...

    The first time we hear from Macbeth, Shakespeare immediately makes the connection between him to the witches: "So foul and fair a day I have not seen"; he uses a phrase that the witches have previously used. After hearing their prophecies, we can assume that Macbeth considered the witches to be "fair" when in reality their intentions were quite "foul".

  2. In this essay I am going to focus on what role the witches have ...

    'Fair is foul, and foul is fair!' are some of the last words said from the Witches and as you read through the play, there are many other things which seem to be turned upside-down. The description of the setting, 'Scotland: open wasteland. Thunder and lightning' creates an atmosphere that helps conjure up a threatening and intimidating

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work