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What contribution do the Witches make to the play Macbeth?

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Introduction

What contribution do the Witches make to the play? The height of religion during and the Elizabethan period, gave way to a huge fascinating belief in Witches, which resulted in persecution on a terrifyingly large scale. This belief would have had major influence over Shakespeare's decision to portray the evil and darkness present in his play of Macbeth, as the audience at the time would have been able to understand the hideousness, and evil luring in the three `weird sisters'. The Oxford English dictionary also states that a Witch is believed to be `a girl or woman capable of enchanting or bewitching a man' and this belief is strongly portrayed in Macbeth as he is taken in by the Witches convincing, manipulative words. The Elizabethan illusion of a witch ranged from the `ugly hag' with the dark cloak, black cat and carbuncled nose to anyone who possessed a `devils mark' which meant that Satan had sucked their blood in exchange for a `familiar' that became their evil servant. Today, portrayal of the witches has changed dramatically. The fearful `black and midnight hags' have become unbelievable, and instead in their place have come attractive, enticing females and even children, to show that anyone can appear as the `innocent flower but be the serpent under't' Throughout the play, the witches work hard to place evil in Macbeth, so he will go on to help them in infecting the Scotland's body politic that without being fully intact, causes chaos and destruction, creating a hell on Earth. The Witches work for themselves only and have major contribution to the plot, as without them, the events that run throughout the play, would not be orchestrated without their sinister evil characters and actions. We meet the Witches at the very start of the play in a desolate place, a place outside society and morals. Hell has been described as being desolate in the past, which reflects the evil in the Witches. ...read more.

Middle

A major concept of the play is the magical use of the number 3 and this is found in various parts of the play. Firstly there are three `weird sisters' and three prophecies and three apparitions. When in a ritual together the Witches recite `Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, and thrice again, to make up nine.' Later, in Act 4 Scene 1 when creating their potion, the Witches use the magical number again as they chant `thrice the brindled cat hath mewed. Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.' The number3 could also be considered in the deaths, as three main murder incidents occur; that of Duncan and the grooms, Banquo's and The Macduffs'. The magical number is very important to the Witches and they use it to bring them the chaos and destruction they long for, to Scotland. The Witches are referred to in the play as the three `weird sisters' reflecting the `three weird sisters of fate' who were evil and full of these supernatural powers they possess themselves. They are only ever referred to as Witches once, by the First Witch and later Macbeth calls them `filthy hags' and `juggling fiends', which describes all they represent. The Witches are also part of the good versus evil theme running through Macbeth. They present the evil and place this in Macbeth, whilst Duncan and Banquo represent the good side. Macbeth's kingdom is presented as a ludicrous parody of Duncan's, as it represents all that Duncan's was not. The play shows how evil can spread and the good can be left to suffer, but the good can get together to fight back and work against evil to sustain harmony back into the World. A major aim of the Witches is to destroy the body politic in Scotland. In the 16^th and 17^th Century it was believed that the country was like that of a body, with the natural hierarchy of the king being the head with his members following. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lady Macbeth ends up committing suicide and is referred by Malcolm as a `fiend-like queen' showing another clear link to the Witches. The Witches are involved in adding a cruel, serious and dark ambience to the play due to their actions and influences that help them to be indirectly involved throughout. The Witches always meet in a desolate place showing their separation from the World and humans, away from rules and morals. The Witches scenes occur near battle scenes, in dark caves and wind rattled heaths, reflecting their violence and powerful wants and needs. When we see the Witches there is always thunder, lightning and storms and these act as pathetic fallacy showing the chaos and destruction they cause and love. They control these elements and create more storms and darkness on the night of Duncan's murder to show their contribution to it without being directly present on stage. This was made clear through a production seen on stage when they often brought the Witches on to walk round the stage holding hands to keep them alive in our minds, and reminding us of their involvement. This stage production, also presented Macbeth to be surrounded by all the people he had killed towards the end as he states `I cannot taint with fear', to reinforce the idea of his tyranny and his desperate want for power. Overall, the Witches have major contribution to the plot, by enchanting the mind of Macbeth with promises and equivocation and planting in him the evil that will lead to Scotland's break down and destruction. The Witches work with the elements to conjure up storms and produce visions to reinforce murder into Macbeth's mind and then taunt Macbeth with dreams and ghosts. These three characters are easily the most interesting characters in the play as they are fascinating and are able to twist truths to hide their darkest side, which takes over the whole play because of the weak soul and the longing for power in Macbeth. ...read more.

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