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To What Extent Are The Witches Significant In Macbeth

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To What Extent Are The Witches Significant In Macbeth Macbeth is one of many Shakespearean tragedies that uses elements of the supernatural. One of the supernatural ingredients is the witches who play an integral part in the play; they provide direction in the plot, affect different characters and are significant to both contemporary and Elizabethan audiences in different ways. The theme of the play is that there is good in every evil, this topic is subtly bought up several times over the course of the play. The witches open the play with an eerie and mysterious feeling, which sets the tone of the play and acts as a hook through the use of dramatic irony. Shakespeare uses them primarily as a dramatic device to build suspense and a sense of foreboding; furthermore they ignite Macbeth's ambition and drive him to become evil. Shakespeare draws on common Elizabethan beliefs that witches have various magical powers. Witches were believed to harm livestock. In Macbeth the second witch says she was 'killing swine', suggesting that she was killing farm animals. Witches were also believed to be able to disappear or fly at will. ...read more.


Another clue that suggests Macbeth may not be destined for King, is the way Shakespeare uses the word shalt which is often mistaken for will, however it means shall which is defined as, it is likely to happen. In Macbeth the third witch says ' All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter', the phrase does not say he will but that he should be King. Shakespeare uses rhyme, rhythm, spell like language and paradoxes to portray the witches as abnormal and set them apart from the other characters. The witches play a pivotal role in the plot of Macbeth. Shakespeare uses them as an indication of what the future will hold for certain characters and to seal Macbeth's fate. The first witch hail's Macbeth as his current title, 'Thane of Glamis' The second witch then hails him as, 'Thane of Cawdor', finally the third witch hails him as 'King hereafter'. The first prophecy manifests, as soon as the witches leave the scene. The second prophecy, that he will be King, is brought about by his own actions, when he decides to kill King Duncan. Whether this is him messing with fate or the way the witches had predicted him becoming King is unclear and unanswered. ...read more.


from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty' this is her way of psyching herself up to being cruel to Macbeth. She then becomes forceful towards Macbeth. This becomes apparent when she says 'When you durst do it, then you were a man.' meaning when you dared do it you were a man now you are not. Lady Macbeth is almost arrogant in the way she expresses herself by saying 'we'll not fail' this highlights her arrogance. Lady Macbeth's forcefulness and arrogance, ignited by her faith in the witches' prophecies, was most likely the push that forced Macbeth to murder King Duncan. It is apparent that the witches are a highly significant part of Macbeth. Shakespeare's use of: literary techniques, imagery, mysterious dark settings and contrasting reactions from various characters ensure that the witches are regarded as an interesting dramatic device that provide a sense of foreboding and help build suspense to the climax. While a contemporary audience may view the witches as an imaginary, entertaining device a Shakespearean audience would have viewed them as serious, terrifying characters. The witches are presented using beliefs of the time making them extremely significant characters of the play, without whom the play would not be as entertaining or as suspenseful. ...read more.

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