Role Of Witches In Macbeth Essay

Shakespeare creates an air of darkness, chaos and mysticism with his first stage direction of ”Thunder and lightening. This is reiterated towards the end of the first scene when the witches state “Fair is foul and foul is fair”, telling the audience that it is often difficult to distinguish between good and evil, and often the two become intertwined.This entanglement of the two is shown with Macbeth’s first line ‘so foul and fair a day I have not seen’, giving an example of what the witches implied and so informing the audience that the relationship between Macbeth and the witches, or good and evil at this stage, is going to be an important theme in the play.

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Shakespeare uses the witches to display on a small scale what will happen throughout the play.

In many ways the sailor and his boat are representatives of Macbeth when he is ruling Scotland.

The witches’ beards, bizarre potions, and rhymed speech make them seem slightly ridiculous, like caricatures of the supernatural.

Shakespeare has them speak in rhyming couplets throughout (their most famous line is probably “Double, double, toil and trouble, / Fire burn and cauldron bubble” in 4.1.10–11), which separates them from the other characters, who mostly speak in blank verse.

The witches’ capabilities are shown in Act 1 Scene 3, when the ‘weird sisters’ are discussing the punishment inflicted on the husband of a ‘rump-fed ronyon’ who refused to give one of the witches some chestnuts.

The first witch has cursed the boat on which the husband is sailing so ‘it shall be tempest-tost.

In other cases, though, their prophecies are just remarkably accurate readings of the future—it is hard to see Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane as being self-fulfilling in any way. Instead, Shakespeare keeps the witches well outside the limits of human comprehension.

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The audience is left to ask whether the witches are independent agents toying with human lives, or agents of fate, whose prophecies are only reports of the inevitable.

The witches bear a striking and obviously intentional resemblance to the Fates, female characters in both Norse and Greek mythology who weave the fabric of human lives and then cut the threads to end them. For example, it is doubtful that Macbeth would have murdered his king without the push given by the witches’ predictions.


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