Furthermore, the witches can also be seen to play a part in destabilising the typical gender roles of men and women within Jacobean society. Banquo states: ‘You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so.’ The ‘beards’ of the witches bring about confusion as to whether the witches are female or male, and deconstruct the opposition between both genders. This ambiguity leads to the witches failing to fall into either category, which further highlights the unnatural nature to them as they do not fit within the realms of human and social convention. Not only does this ambiguity create further unpredictability, but it also reflects the later attempts of Lady Macbeth to be rid of her femininity: ‘Come, you spirits, That end on mortal thoughts, unsex me here.’ The parallels between the witches and the actions of Lady Macbeth work to similarly convey her as increasingly monstrous, perhaps suggesting a criticism of the lack of social role and responsibility which leads to her own deterioration. Thus, our ability to categorize ourselves and others into gender roles and abide by the social expectations linked to these is seen as a distinctly human attribute and one which Shakespeare may have deemed important for the successful function of a patriarchal society.
Lastly, the witches may also be considered significant in adding a grotesque nature to the play which further exemplifies their sinister nature: ‘Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog.’ The repeated references to mutilated body parts of animals within the witches chants further depicts their unnatural nature as they are interfering with the natural state of animals. Additionally, further reference to ‘Liver of blaspheming Jew…Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips’ highlights a taboo element as it plays on racial stereotypes and victimizes groups which contextually may be considered the ‘other’. Perhaps most significantly, however, is the additional parallels which run between the witches and Lady Macbeth, as they incorporate ‘finger of birth-strangled babe’ into their spell. This line instantly incites the previous recognition of Lady Macbeth’s own statement that she would have, whilst breast-feeding, removed a baby and ‘dashed the brains out.’ A similar taboo element is highlighted through the suggestion of infanticide, as well as the idea of going against nature as breast-feeding is considered a tender and natural human act. Such clear similarity between the witches and Lady Macbeth can thus be seen to suggest an argument which underlies the whole plot of the play – who are really the ‘monstrous’ characters within the play; the witches or the humans? Such ambiguity and deconstruction of the opposition between supposed evil and good as an overarching theme of the novel is one which incites great fear into the plot and the audience, as it implies that, under specific circumstances, even the most moral of us can deteriorate into evil and sin.