• 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)

    This soon changes though. Banquo asks Macbeth why he isn't excited by what the witches have said. Banquo also asks the witches about his own future. They reply in riddles. "FIRST WITCH: Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. SECOND WITCH: Not so happy, yet much happier.

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

    The reader sense's Macbeth's literal mind when he so easily accepts what the witches tell him- just because three witches tell Macbeth of his future, does not ultimately mean it is a true prophecy. Furthermore, instead of waiting for this prophecy to prove true, Macbeth cannot resist playing a direct

  1. Macbeth - Women In The Play

    As I mentioned before, she doesn't want the ability to care for the baby and says that Macbeth now has that role. She wants to become more feminine and wants to prove herself as such by helping to commit this murder.

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

    In the second scene Shakespeare uses this to establish the fact that there is a battle going on with Scotland and Norway at that time. The audience is then informed via a "bloody captain" that it was not certain that Scotland would win the battle until Macbeth appears, and the

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

    image of the three Witches and also to try and make the reader feel uneasy about what is to come in the story. When you read the scene you are able to speak it in a chant-like rhythm. The Witches talk like this by not speaking much and only saying


    her eyes covered up, the third witch seemed to be at the top of the hierarchy as she seemed to answer all the questions and talked the most out of the three. Each witch seemed to have a disability making them interdependent.

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