Shakespeare's Use of the Supernatural in "Macbeth"

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The supernatural was a popular element in many of the plays written in Shakespeare's time (including Hamlet) and everyone of Shakespeare's time found the supernatural fascinating. Even King James I took a special interest in supernatural and written a book, Daemonologie, on witchcraft. It must be remembered that, in Shakespeare's day, supernatural referred to things that were "above Nature"; things which existed, but not part of the normal human life and unexplainable. The play Macbeth involves many supernatural actions that act as a catalyst for suspense and thrill, insight into character, foreshadowing of future events as well as making connections with the theme.

In the opening scene of the play, the entrance of the three witches depicts the first presence of supernatural in Macbeth. The presence of the supernatural forces of the witches was accompanied by the dark, gloomy and thunderous ambience, perhaps functioning as a foreshadowing of future events that involves evil, wickedness and darkness. This is important as it gives the audience an idea of what might happen later in the play. For example, we see that later on in the play, Macbeth turned evil and wicked, killing an old and honourable King Duncan and a loyal friend, Banquo. I take particular note of the significance of darkness as it was later used by Macbeth when he calls upon the "seeling Night" (Act III. Scene ii. Line 46) which `makes clear vision impossible', as a way to cover up his evil deeds. Foreshadowing of `evilness' which is also a theme in the play is also created when the witches, before leaving the first scene, cried in unison that "Fair is foul and foul is fair" (Act I. Scene ii. Line 11). This line suggests and gives the audience a foreshadow that ...

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...he supernatural is one element in Macbeth that was used cleverly by Shakespeare to get various messages across to the audience. The messages are brought across between the lines of the plays which requires audiences to reflect critically to get the underlying meaning of his play. Shakespeare did not merely show ghosts and witches in the supernatural as a thriller, but also tied in the political and religious aspects of the society during his time.


* Internet Shakespeare Editions (2003). Witches and King James.

Retrieved August 27, 2005, from

* Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. (2005). Scrofula.

Retrieved September 3, 2005, from
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