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

What contribution do the Witches make to the play Macbeth?

Extracts from this document...


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.


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.


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.

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. Shakespeare's use of the Supernatural in Macbeth

    This can also be said about the spectator's response. He starts as a brave soldier, he finishes dead. He turned into a psychologically ailing coward, who cannot slay and relies on supernatural powers. The supernatural betrays him in the end, which can be particularly said about Act 4 scene 1.


    supernatural world, so they thought that a person who relied completely and could not do without someone from the supernatural world would be surely going to fail and loose him self. Macbeth is seen as a figure who is lost and can't find any ways of adjusting what he has

  1. Was Macbeth a Victim of the Witches or did he have control over his ...

    My thoughts on Macbeth are that he is a partial victim who cannot resist temptation. I think this because he was a victim that the thoughts were put in his head by the witches and of he never met the witches he would not of thought about it.

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

    In all four cases, thunder precedes the three witches, almost as though nature is protesting against the witches' presence. I will now analyse the four scenes in which the witches can be seen to directly influence the play. In Act 1,Scene 1, the very first stage action in Macbeth reads: "Thunder and lightning, enter three witches."

  1. Analysis of the witches in macbeth

    Theatres in the 17th century were open air and lit by the sun. Seats in the galleries were sheltered by a thatched roof; most of the stage was also covered, so if it rained the groundlings got soaked. Despite the chance of getting soaked and the steep price it is

  2. How does Shakespeare use Characters and Language to Discuss evil in his Play "Macbeth"?

    Is Macbeth like that with evil? Banquo is there once more to show how power demented and ludicrous Macbeth is. Macbeth has a detrimental obsession with winning it seems, he is a very determined person.

  1. Explain how the power shifts from Macbeth to Lady Macbeth in the early stages ...

    king she will be Queen and get all the luxuries that go with it. However. she is afraid that Macbeth does not have the strength and ruthlessness to be able to do anything bad, let alone kill to get the crown.

  2. Explore the way the theme of the supernatural is presented in Macbeth and The ...

    The supernatural in ?Macbeth? then, is central. Shakespeare stages Macbeth?s visit to the witches in a dark cave with a cauldron in the middle. Again the atmosphere is portentous and the witch?s presence is accompanied by thunder, creating tension and fear.

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