• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  3. 3
    3
  4. 4
    4
  5. 5
    5
  6. 6
    6
  7. 7
    7
  8. 8
    8
  9. 9
    9
  10. 10
    10
  11. 11
    11
  12. 12
    12
  13. 13
    13

What is the Significance of the Witches in Macbeth?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

What is the Significance of the Witches in 'Macbeth'? 'Macbeth' is set in 11th century Scotland - a time of political unrest with lots of violence, murders and rivalry to do with politics and kings. In these times competent and noble leaders were often killed for ambition and greed. Shakespeare explores these issues in the play. Although 'Macbeth' is set in a period a long time ago, its themes are still relevant to any society and age - even today. Shakespeare writes about issues that have been in any time. An example is whether leaders are good or bad and what qualities they have that shows this. 'Macbeth' also demonstrates the role of ambition in society and how it affects everyone both short term and long term. The play shows how power is gained and kept be that by legitimate reasons or by wrong methods such as usurpation. Shakespeare was a patron of King James I, who supported Macbeth and his plays. Therefore James I had some influence on the play, and several elements of the play appear; such as the divine nature of kings which James strongly believed him. This Divine Order is a theory about how the whole universe is decided and dictated by God and kings were God's agents. This meant actions against kings were crimes against God and anyone who did so would go to hell. This explains why James I hated regicide and why Shakespeare portrays it as bad in 'Macbeth'. We are shown two noble, good, strong kings - Duncan and Malcolm. We also see a ruthless evil tyrant named Macbeth who becomes a poor and weak king. Shakespeare deliberately changes Holinshed's Chronicles of which he gets his 'data' from. An example is how Macbeth and Duncan are 'switched around' as such where in real life Macbeth was strong king who reigned for many years and Duncan was a weak king, however in 'Macbeth' it is Duncan who is the strong well-liked king and Macbeth is the weak ruler. ...read more.

Middle

Soon after, Macbeth also lies to Banquo - to cover up his black thoughts of murder. By the end of this scene, we fully realise what the witches have done. They have changed a loyal, courageous, noble, honourable man into a man whose ambitions have overpowered him, turning him into a liar and evil. This is the witches' role in Macbeth. Just from these first three scenes, we have been a great deal of the witches and we have learnt a lot about their roles in 'Macbeth'. They excite and thrill James I, who had a deep interest in witchcraft; by the way they speak in rhythm and rhyme. They also create the play's atmosphere, with the weather - thunder, lightning, rain and how menacing and evil they are, creating excitement for the audience. They also create suspense and tension for the audience and the play's characters because of how they have begun to manipulate and twist Macbeth - creating a tragedy because they have unleashed Macbeth's fatal character flaw ambition which we suspect will eventually take over and destroy him. They also show and create some of the themes in 'Macbeth' like the supernatural element, the evil of the play, equivocation, violence and tyranny. Therefore the witches play a big part in the story and their effect is so powerful, that whenever they appear the audience anticipate evil and treachery. In Shakespearian times, this would have been because the audience would have had strong Christian beliefs. Next in Act 1, Scene 4, King Duncan names his successor to the throne - Malcolm, not Macbeth. The witches haven't told him the whole truth, fate is not just going to make him king - Macbeth notices this and makes up his mind to do something about it. Malcolm, the Prince of Cumberland is an obstacle to Macbeth that he "must fall down, or else o'erleap". ...read more.

Conclusion

As Messenger reports that Birnam wood is moving towards the castle, Macbeth partially realises what the witches have done. "I pull in resolution, and begin to doubt th' equivocation of the fiend, that lies like truth". Act 5, Scene 8, and Macbeth fully realises that the witches have tricked him. He is totally disheartened and is finally killed by Macduff, a fate that had been awaiting him since his second meeting with the witches. The witches have a huge amount of significance in 'Macbeth' for a number of ways. Shakespeare gives them a number of roles to play, many which have huge effects on the plays' characters and the audience. An example is their equivocation, lies and mistruths. They trick Macbeth, and set off his seed of ambition - his fatal character flaw. This eventually leads to Macbeth's downfall. This also gives the audience excitement, tension and suspense - another of the witches roles - to entertain the audience, particularly James I who was deeply interested in witches. The witches also portray a number of 'Macbeth's' themes, which makes the play as deep and popular as it is. Examples of the witches themes are; order and disorder; equivocation; evil; ambition; treachery; appearance and reality; sin; guilt; violence and tyranny and fare. They also create imagery in Macbeth - such as the atmosphere associated with every time they appear on stage. This is pathetic fallacy and an example is the thunder, lightning and rain they have in their scenes. They also conjure up images of darkness and evil. They also act as a catalyst by the way they spark off things in people. The main example is ambition in Macbeth, but also they spark off Banquo's loyalty by the way he is not affected by them. The witches also create a lot of rhythm for the play, and this is done by their rhyme and spells - "double, double toil and trouble". This means the play is exciting to watch, ultimately accounting for 'Macbeth's' popularity. The witches therefore are very significant 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. Peer reviewed

    Discuss the Role Played by the Witches in the Tragedy of Macbeth

    3 star(s)

    This soon changes though. Banquo asks Macbeth why he isn't excited by what the witches have said. Banquo also asks the witches about his own future. They reply in riddles. "FIRST WITCH: Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. SECOND WITCH: Not so happy, yet much happier.

  2. Compare and contrast Banquo and Macbeth looking particularly at the first meeting with the ...

    Banquo recognises the witches for what they are and for the moment puts them out of his mind. Some time after Macbeth kills Duncan and becomes king, Banquo grows suspicious of him. In a short soliloquy, Banquo tells the audience that he suspects that Macbeth became king by foul means.

  1. Does Shakespeare present Lady Macbeth as good or evil?

    Another important thing to know is that people of the Shakespearean age were very religious and they thought that the king was somehow closely related to God and therefore if you killed the King, apart from being a traitor against the king, you were a traitor against God and Christianity.

  2. Discuss how Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth and how her character develops during the play

    It is not only Lady Macbeth's personality that has changed, but also her manner of speaking. The content of her speeches are uncontrolled, broken ramblings. They reflect her true thoughts and inner-feelings. Her first line in this scene 'Yet here's a spot' is full of dramatic irony.

  1. How do the Witches in Macbeth Reflect contemporary ideas of witchcraft? Are the Witches ...

    his murderer's mission and so makes Macbeth act strange, which creates suspicion in his fellow lords. Although you can clearly see that Macbeth has started his downfall into those negative images already, it is important to note that the witches weren't there to make Macbeth commit these crimes, suggesting that there is another influence.

  2. How does Shakespeare create an atmosphere of evil and disorder in Act 1 of ...

    Now this in itself is startling to the Elizabethans, how dare a woman say this about her husband! Women were meant to obey their husbands and hold no real opinion, and here is Lady Macbeth is calling her husband weak and too soft!

  1. What contribution do the Witches make to the play Macbeth?

    Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter' This will confuse Macbeth as he only holds the title of Thane of Glamis and make him fascinated and lured in by the Witches as they are offering him something he dreams of having; the royal title of king.

  2. Imagery Of Appearance and Reality in Macbeth

    This may be a reflection of his awareness that Good (the sun) is gaining the upperhand in its struggle with Evil. This imagery is not strikingly new, but it is consistently used in the play and aptly emphasises the Theme of Good versus Evil.

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