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The Role of the Witches

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The Role of the Witches When Shakespeare wrote this play in 1606 a large majority of people were interested in witchcraft. King James was so fascinated by witches that he wrote an article about them in 1957 called 'Demonologie'. So this is why Shakespeare has made the witches and the witches' prophecies play a major part in the storyline and overall feeling of the play Macbeth. In the time of Macbeth witches were not thought to be supernatural beings themselves, but supposedly gained their powers by selling their souls to Satan, and were then instructed and controlled by 'familiar spirits'. The existence of witchcraft was recognised by English law - an act of 1604 made the practice of it punishable by death - but it was by no means unquestioned. There can be little doubt that most of Shakespeare's audience would have believed in witches, and for the purpose of the play, at least, Shakespeare also accepted their reality. The three witches in the tragedy Macbeth are introduced right at the beginning of the play and the brief opening few scenes give an immediate impression of mystery, horror and uncertainty. This is a sign of things to come as witchcraft is used as one of the main themes of the play. The witches create an atmosphere of evil and disorder. ...read more.


Everything that the witches say sounds they are chanting a magic spell. In act 4 scene 1 lines 4-9 : 'Round about the cauldron go..........charmed pot.' Here the poet uses rhyming couplets and a different rhythm to the rest of the play. There is a repeated chorus in which they all join in. 'Double, double, toil and trouble: Fire, burn; and cauldron, bubble.' The alliteration with the repeated 'd' and 'b' sounds make the chant sound very powerful and is very catchy. Lady Macbeth is shown early in the play as an ambitious woman with a single purpose. She can manipulate Macbeth easily. This is shown in act 1 scene 5: "That I may pour my spirits in thine ear" She is selfless, and wants what is best for her husband. Before the speech that Lady Macbeth gives in act one scene five, Macbeth is resolved not to go through with the killing of the king. However, Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth's self-esteem by playing on his manliness and his bravery. This then convinces Macbeth to commit the murder. It is like a child who is easily guided. Lady Macbeth knows this and uses this to her advantage. Although Macbeth has the final say in whether or not to go through with the initial killing, he loves Lady Macbeth and wants to make her happy. ...read more.


In the end, it all becomes too much for Macbeth. He starts to go crazy and on the night of the Duncan murder many strange things happen. Macbeth has a vision of a dagger, which then leads him to Duncan's room, Lenox heard screaming, the weather turns into a raging storm, the horses eat each other and a bird of prey (falcon) is killed by an owl. These strange and unnatural events, especially the imaginary dagger, show that Macbeth is not fully in control of his own actions and is being influenced by evil. But everyone is responsible for his own destiny. This is an essential theme in this tragedy. Macbeth chooses to gamble with his soul and when he does this it is only him who chooses to lose it. He is responsible for anything he does and must take total accountability for his actions. Macbeth is the one who made the final decision to carry out his actions. He made these final decisions and continued with the killings to cover that of King Duncan. However where as 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 in order to see what actions he should take. This suggests that the witches did have a great influence on his actions. ...read more.

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