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

The Role of the Witches in Macbeth

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

THE ROLE OF THE WITCHES IN MACBETH Since Macbeth was first performed almost four hundred years ago, the three Witches have been portrayed in numerous ways on the stage and, over the last hundred years, on the screen. But the Witches have remained, in all their various guises, one of the most powerful elements in the play and one of the most powerful instruments for affecting audiences. One of the reasons for this is that Man throughout the ages has been fascinated by the supernatural, and this was especially true in Elizabethan England. The Witches are able to unsettle audiences by the way in which they are portrayed on the stage and by their use of language, particularly their descriptions of the evil deeds they perpetrate, which are delivered in an incantational style. But the main role of the Witches in this play is the part they play in the tragic downfall of Macbeth. The extent to which he is a victim of the Witches' evil is an essential part of the drama of his fall from grace. At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, England was very different from the England in which we live today. ...read more.

Middle

They also add the organs of humans: "liver of blaspheming Jew", "Nose of Turk", "Tartar's lips" and "Finger of birth-strangled babe, Ditch-delivered by a drab". All of these would appeal to the Witches as they were not baptised, and therefore could add evil to the Witches' broth. To allow Macbeth to see the apparitions which will tell him of his fate, the Witches pour into the fire the fearful "sow's blood, that hath eaten Her nine farrow" and "grease, that's sweaten From the murderer's gibbet". Shakespeare then presents the Witches, without any doubt, as an evil force and yet from the first time we see them, as they plan to meet with Macbeth (upon the heath, There to meet with Macbeth"), it is clear that they are inextricably tied to the fate of the general. The Witches leave the heath in Act 1Scene 1 saying "fair is foul, and foul is fair" and Macbeth echoes these words in his very first line, "So foul and fair a day I have not seen". The Witches are influencing Macbeth's thinking before he has even set eyes on them. When the Witches have vanished after his first meeting with them, Macbeth wonders whether or not the reason he saw them was that he had inadvertently eaten the "insane root" (hemlock). ...read more.

Conclusion

This line clearly links the Witches to the actions and fate of Macbeth. Yet Macbeth's decision to go beyond the messages of the apparitions and murder Macduff shows a real thirst for blood. This leads to the horrific slaughter of Lady Macduff and her children. It seems possible that Macbeth, like Lady Macbeth, has a diseased mind. The tragedy of Macbeth is that not until he knows his death and damnation is certain, with the dramatic message that Birnam Wood is moving towards his castle, does he see that he has been manipulated by the Witches, the evil instruments of his fate, "I pull in resolution, and begin To doubt th' equivocation of the fiend, That lies like truth". His last words remind the audience of "Brave Macbeth" of the beginning of the play, "At least we'll die with harness on our back". The Witches create a sense of evil in Macbeth by being presented in a way that Elizabethans would recognise as truly witch-like and frightening. Shakespeare intensifies their evil power by the vivid, incantational use of language in which they describe their ghoulish acts and weave their spells. Above all, the role of the "Weird Sisters", as they play with the fate of "brave Macbeth" and knowingly send him to his doom is a vital element in this tragic drama. ...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)

    see their evil influence through the development of the plot and characters. The mood, atmosphere, language and imagery are also affected by the witches' power over Macbeth. Their predictions take control of his life. In Act 1 scene 4, we learn that Duncan's eldest son, Malcolm, has been promoted to

  2. Explore the role of the witches in 'Macbeth'. To what extent do they influence ...

    The lightning would have been chemical flashes, possibly gunpowder, which would also account for the thunder. The witches vanish at the end of the scene through a trap door in the stage, which would have definitely impressed the audience because at this time, that was a state-of-the-art special effect.

  1. How do the Witches in Macbeth Reflect contemporary ideas of witchcraft? Are the Witches ...

    To explain this contradiction I must first point this out: if you look through the play Lady Macbeth's character seems to only consist of her confidence, therefore without her confidence she is nothing. I can explain the contradictions in her speech therefore that although Lady Macbeth comes across as confident

  2. Discuss the Role of the Witches and Other Supernatural Elements

    They start talking about how brave and noble he is. "For brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name." "Noble Macbeth." "All's too weak for brave Macbeth." When Banquo and Macbeth finally meet the witches I get the impression that the witches are uncomfortable to be around.

  1. Examine the role of the witches in Macbeth.

    The contradictory ideas about Macbeth that are spoken create tension, as the audience waits to see the true nature of Macbeth. A witch speaks before Macbeth's arrival in Act I Scene 3, the line 'A drum, a drum, Macbeth doth come'.

  2. Account for the lasting appeal for the play (Macbeth)

    O, O, O'. (I, v, 42-43). Lady Macbeth is referring to the hand that she had got King Duncan's blood on. This is a more 'lady like' view than the view she had earlier when she said to Macbeth 'Go get some water and wash this filthiness off your hands' (II, ii, 49-50)

  1. What is the role of the witches in "Macbeth"? Are they the most powerful ...

    King James I was very fascinated by witches and witchcraft, as was most the population at the time of shakespear. When Shakespeare wrote this for king James he made sure it would appeal to him. King James believed in witchcraft and supernatural powers.

  2. 'Is Macbeth responsible for his actions or is he manipulated by outside forces?'

    Since Macbeth is the King's cousin, the witches know that his desire is close to his heart. The theme of murder and treason is a great act of betrayal and duplicity, because he is killing his own blood. But the murder of a King is even worse, because during the

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