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What is the role and dramatic significance of the witches in Macbeth?

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Introduction

What is the role and dramatic significance of the witches in Macbeth "Macbeth" is one of the four great Shakespeare tragedies, along with "Hamlet", "King Lear", and "Othello". It was written in the early 17th century, which was a time where people believed strongly in witchcraft and the dark arts. The King at the time was King James the 1st of England known also as King James the 4th of Scotland. He believed strongly in witchcraft and considered himself to be an expert on it. He had even written a book on witchcraft and his encounters earlier on in life. The witches were added to the play for James. This is because they would shorten the play by having them there. This is mainly because James used to fall asleep when watching longer plays. The Witches would shorten the play because otherwise the process for Macbeth to become King would take years, mainly because Macbeth would have to wait for Duncan to die. But even if that did happen one of Duncans sons would take the throne instead. Also in the play, the character Banquo is actually a distant relative of James's and somewhat flatters James by changing Banquo to a noble character in the play. The witches in the play are referred to as "The Weird Sisters". But not because they are weird in some way, as if they have moustaches or beards. ...read more.

Middle

He doesn't know if they are living or if they are just creatures that are already dead. He soon realises that they understand him. He seems to enjoy insulting them. The difference between Banquo and Macbeth is that Banquo seems to take the witches more as a joke, but Macbeth seems to be taken in by them and fascinated by them. When they see Macbeth they call him by his present status and his future ranks. Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, King. Macbeth is practically hypnotised at the thought of being King and wants tio hear more from the witches, "Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more"1:3:70. Because he reacts in this way, he feels that he should carry out his tasks to become king of Scotland. Banquo is trying to tell Macbeth that the witches are just speaking nonsense and that he shouldn't get his hopes up. Or that it might never happen and should just forget about it. After Banquo tries to talk to Macbeth, the witches start praising Banquo. They say that his descendants will become King but he won't. This adds to the killing of Banquo by Macbeth later on in the play. This is because Macbeth wants to secure his position on the throne. Macbeth wants to hear more about his fate and future and is engrossed in finding out. ...read more.

Conclusion

In between each apparition Macbeth asks the witches a question and then they will answer. I think that they do this so that the audience will be able to understand the apparitions better. The first apparition is to beware of Macduff. The second apparition is no man born from a woman shall harm Macbeth. And the third apparition is Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him. After the apparitions are told Macbeth becomes relieved and thinks that no-one can take his throne. Macbeth then asks if Banquos issue should ever rule scotland. The witches do actually refuse to show him. This shows that the witches do actually care a bit for Macbeth. But he insists and they show him. Towards the end of the play when the apparitions come true, Macbeth feels as if he has been tricked by the witches and seems to be shocked that these seemingly impossible ideas are happening. "Accursed be that tongue that tells me so." 5:8:17. Just before the witches leave, they do a dance and then they vanish with Hecate. Hecate is the goddess and the queen of the witches. Hecate appears in act three scene five. This scene probably was not written by Shakespeare but added because the audience liked to see the witches. The conclusion to my essay is that, because Macbeth met the witches upon the heath, that event changed the fate for many characters in the play. ...read more.

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