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With close reference to Act 1 scene I and III, and Act 4 scene I, explore both the dramatic and thematic importance of the witches in the play 'Macbeth'.

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Introduction

MACBETH COURSEWORK ESSAY With close reference to Act 1 scene I and III, and Act 4 scene I, explore both the dramatic and thematic importance of the witches in the play 'Macbeth'. The three witches hold great dramatic and thematic importance within Shakespeare's play, 'Macbeth'. The idea of evil and witchcraft was of great significance to a Jacobean audience. People in that era greatly believed in the ideas of the supernatural and unearthly evil. King James himself was particularly interested in witchcraft and believed in the existence of witches, as would have his populace. However, people of a modern audience nowadays would be sceptical of that idea and do not believe in things such as witches and black magic. Those ideas are at present very diminished, thus they do not have as big an impact on us as they most probably did on a Jacobean audience. The dramatic importance of the witches in the play centres on the way with which Shakespeare stages them. He introduces the witches, who are the first characters the audience see on stage, using the stage directions, "thunder and lightening. Enter three witches". This evokes a sense of evil and the presence of a storm throughout this opening scene creates an atmosphere of tension and suspense. This beginning to the play is powerful and makes and impact on the audience. This is also thematically important, as by starting the play in this fashion, Shakespeare leaves you in no doubt about what it is going be about; which is the struggle between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness. ...read more.

Middle

the effect of this would have been more powerful during the Jacobean times, but wouldn't have much effect on an audience today. The way with which Macbeth begins to ask the witches and gain further prophecies from them shows to us how much he has become dependent on their words and how strongly he has come to credit and trust their prophecies. Him returning to the witches clearly emphasizes the reliance he now has on them. "I conjure you, by that which you profess... answer me to what I ask you." He is begging and appealing to the witches to confess to him further signs and predictions. As the witches begin to show Macbeth the apparitions, again Shakespeare uses the stage direction "thunder" as way to induce a dramatic effect and importance to the witches and their deeds. The witches show Macbeth what he wants to hear. The first apparition, an armed head warning him of Macduff, echoes Macbeth's inner thought about Macduff. Macbeth is wary and vigilant of Macduff, that he keeps a "...servant fee'd." as a spy for him in Macduff's house. Macbeth's thoughts about Macduff come about from Macduff being the first to find King Duncan murdered, him missing Macbeth's coronation as King, and his absence from the Banquet, "How say'st thou that Macduff denies his person/At our great bidding?" Macduff's actions show that he has become suspicious about Macbeth and distrusts him. This in turn makes Macbeth wary of Macduff, and what he might do to uncover the truth about Macbeth. ...read more.

Conclusion

After each line, the witches could pause. This creates suspense and mystery, and makes the audience cling to the words of the witches, eager to know what they shall say next. The third witch can pause slightly longer after she says the line "There to meet with..." This will make the audience alert and greatly anticipate whom the witches shall meet with. This creates tension and drama. The witch could then whisper, "...Macbeth." I think that the witches should stop after the line, "fair is foul, and foul is fair." As the next and last line in the scene is sinister and sounds evil, which the witches are not meant to be in this version of the play. Also, the witches making "fair is foul, and foul is fair" their last line in this scene is dramatically significant, as this is the first thing that Macbeth says when we first meet him in the play. In conclusion, the witches in Macbeth hold significant dramatic and thematic importance within the play. This lies in the way with which Shakespeare introduces them to the audience and presents them as outsiders, in a shroud of evil and malice throughout the play. Also, he establishes his hero in a connection with the witches, and this sustains the suspense and dramatic tension that the witches' generate when they interact with this character, Macbeth. They help Macbeth to reach the top by encouraging his ambitions and weaknesses through their prophecies and apparitions, which were also the means of his downfall in the end. ...read more.

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