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The Role of The Witches In Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'

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The Role of The Witches In Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' The witches fulfil various different and important roles in Macbeth. Their presence contributes immensely to the atmosphere and to the plot development. Their significance is demonstrated by the fact that it is they, solely, who appear in the first scene of the play. In Shakespeare's time, the idea of witches attracted a great deal of suspicion and fear as well as interest. It is possible that, at the time the play was written, a great deal of publicity was being given to the notion of witches and was therefore at the front of many people' minds. The king at the time was, too, probably very interested in the subject of witches and almost certainly would, himself, have held a stereotype of witches similar to that shown in the play. Witches were alleged to have been, stereotypically, much like how they are depicted in the play; "you should be women, and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so" - Banquo, Act I Scene III. They were, almost certainly, just ugly old women, some of whom may have claimed to have supernatural powers, others of whom probably contested every allegation thrown at them. ...read more.


lasting damage and suffering to Scotland (as Macbeth is defeated at the end of the play), and the general goodness of human nature cannot be surpressed, in particular in the case of Lady Macbeth (who cannot rid herself of her human feelings) but also in the case of Macbeth (who displays an uncharacteristic reaction to the suggestion of murder in act I, scene III , "whose murder yet is but fantastical"). The witches constantly speak in paradox and with inverted values. Their apparitions, who are also unnatural and represent everything that the witches do, speak in a misleading fashion such as 'for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth'. This statement leads Macbeth to believe that he is completely safe, as it basically implies that no human will harm him. This prophecy is of great significance as Macbeth continually refers to it and becomes arrogant because of it. It turns out, however, that Macduff was born by a suzarian ("Macduff was from his mother's womb untimely ripp'd). The witches say things like 'fair is foul and foul is fair' and 'lesser than Macbeth, and greater'. ...read more.


Macbeth's speech (near the end of Act 3, scene 4) shows that he has become dependent on the witches. The appearance of the ghost of Banquo contributes greatly to this. He begins to doubt his ability to consolidate power and therefore decides that he will go to see the witches, whose apparitions lead him to believe that he is safe, although the audience realise that the statements are actually misleading. The appearance of the kings encourages Macbeth and he tells Lennox that he will attack the castle of Macduff, because he believes that he does not have to fear Macduff. After this meeting with the witches, Macbeth becomes very agitated and he makes rash decisions. Whilst it could be argued that it is the witches who lead to the downfall of Macbeth, they are not, in fact, totally responsible for his actions. Macbeth had clearly thought of the idea of being king before he ever came across the witches, as he reacts to the witches' prophecy in a way that makes this apparent. His wife Lady Macbeth spurs him on throughout the play. At several points in the play, when he calls upon the witches, he is not directly encouraged, but he becomes more evil and malicious as a result of both their influence and their actions. ...read more.

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