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

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Introduction

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.

Middle

"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.

Conclusion

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.

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