Through this essay I am hoping that I will be able to comment upon many things about the story of Macbeth, for example the actions of the characters.

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Thomas Beech 10H

Macbeth essay


For this English assignment I am going to write about William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”. Through this essay I am hoping that I will be able to comment upon many things about the story of Macbeth, for example the actions of the characters.

I will only be monitoring two of the scenes, these are Act 1 scene 3 and Act 4 Scene 1 as I see these as the most influential scenes in the play and they each show how the play is progressing and the changes in the characters as the story is unfolding. They are also the scenes which feature the witches.

Macbeth was first performed in 1606, early in the reign of king James I, who had succeeded queen Elizabeth, and during the time the theatre was becoming more popular between all the different ‘classes’. The play would be performed in front of a crowd who, if they did not like the play, would walk out and leave. The play was performed by men only because of the Elizabethan beliefs of women’s roles in society.

Elizabethan Beliefs

The Elizabethans believed that witches were evil and they were seen as being the devil on earth, all Elizabethans that would see this play thought this and would, when they saw the witches, automatically dislike the witches. In the play Shakespeare presents the witches as evil, unpleasant characters throughout the whole play. It is ultimately they who are responsible for the killing spree that Macbeth embarks upon, as it was they who planted the idea that he may one day become king. This raging ambition led the once noble Macbeth to murder king Duncan, and then to brutally kill many other innocent people in a bid to secure the crown, and when the play was first performed, the audience would already have strong convictions about witches and their powers and believed that they could:

  • Speak with the devil, and with his help communicate with the dead. It was also believed that witches worked for the devil.

  • See into the future, meaning that they would be able to give people ideas about what will happen to them in the future and inevitably shape peoples lives in a way that they would see as entertaining.

  • Make people fall ill by using spells and potions, as well as causing droughts amongst other things to make peoples food supply grow stale and decrease making people suffer from hunger and a lot of the time die from the hunger that they were feeling.

  • Fly through the air on a household broomstick and become invisible to the human eye so they could do whatever evil things they wanted to.

  • Cause bad weather like storms to affect ships, and make them become lost at sea and never return home, and kill crops so that there would be less food for the people who grew the crops and also less money for those who decided to sell their crops.

  • Use animals such as cats as disguises for the evil spirits, who serve them, these were called ‘witches familiars’, a witch was normally associated with a black cat because of its dark fur and because black cats were seen more at night or in a alleyway.
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  • It was believed that the number three was evil also because witches were seen in groups of three.

  • Another belief of the Elizabethans was that if people spoke in rhyming couplets then they were witches because it was seen as an incantation by the Elizabethan people and was therefore disliked.

  • It was believed that witches could use a simple cauldron to make spells and potions that consisted of the most foul and poisonous substances and/or things that the Elizabethan people knew at the time.

  • And finally it was believed that the witches could manipulate people’s minds ...

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