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What Part does Witchcraft Play in Macbeth?

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Sarah Thomas What Part does Witchcraft Play in Macbeth? In Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, witchcraft plays a huge part. The whole play is strung together by the prophecies the witches make. The play was most likely written between 1605 and 1606 and produced between 1606 and 1611. Throughout Shakespeare's life, witchcraft was a big fascination. Persecutions reached terrifying proportions between 1560 and 1603 when hundreds of people, mostly women, were convicted as witches and were executed. Most people believed in witches but Shakespeare himself was a non-believer and thought them to be 'poppycock'. Shakespeare used witches to promote his play to the audience, especially the likes of King James I. King James had a fascination with witches and in 1597 he wrote a book called 'Demonology'. In the 1600s James I took part in witchcraft ceremonies. Scotland was one of the most active countries in hunting and killing witches. There were 4,400 'witches' executed between 1590 and 1680. It was believed that witches had many powers, they could speak with the devil, speak to the dead, make people fall ill and die, they could fly, become invisible, create bad weather and even allow the devil to suck their blood in return for a familiar. ...read more.


Lady Macbeth is one of them. She calls upon evil spirits for assistance for her to be able to go through with the evil deed of killing King Duncan. "Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty..." Act I Scene 5 lines 38-52 She is excited about the evil that she has allowed to posses her but becomes consumed by it and the doctor has to call for the divine to come and help her. The divine is the Christian goodness because the doctor believes she has been consumed by the devil. Macbeth is about the battle of good and evil and this is one of the battles. Lady Macbeth loses and commits suicide, she is condemned to Hell because the Christian Church considers suicide a sin. "More needs she the divine then the physician." Act 5 Scene I line 64 This quote is the doctor talking to the maid he is saying that she needs the help of god because he can do nothing for her. ...read more.


Most people who do not even know the play can recall the Hubble-Bubble chant. "Upon her skinny lips; you should be women and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so." Act I Scene 3 lines 43-45 As the play progresses we start to believe that the witches are responsible for all of the happenings in the play, for example creating the dagger that Macbeth sees before him and the dying Banquo at the feasting table. This creates excitement for the audience. "Thou canst not say I did it; never shake thy gory locks at me!" Act 3 Scene 4 lines 50-51 This quotation is Macbeth talking to the ghost of Banquo he is telling the ghost that he can not prove that the killing was his doing. Macbeth retains his free will throughout the play, it is his downfall that he decides to follow what the witches tell him, and if he had lost his free will you could not call him a tragic figure. The witches attracted many people to come and see Macbeth including perhaps, the King with his fascination for the subject of witchcraft. It was the popular theme of the day; they add dramatic interest and turn the play into a mystery and thriller. ...read more.

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