The Role of Witchcraft in Macbeth

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The Role of Witchcraft in Macbeth Throughout Shakespeare's life, witches and witchcraft were the objects of morbid and fevered fascination. A veritable witch-mania characterised the reign of Elizabeth I and persecution reached terrifying proportions. Between 1560 and 1603 hundreds of people were convicted as witches and executed. Macbeth was written by William Shakespeare in 1606 for King James I who was obsessed with the supernatural and had even gone as far as to write a book on the topic titled Daemonolgie. Act 1 scene 1 opens with thunder and lightning, which on stage would open the play in a dramatic way with loud noises and flashes of light. This would immediately capture the audience's attention and they would be focusing on the stage as the witches appear. The thunder and lightning create a frightening and menacing atmosphere and this sets the tone for the horrifying events that are about to unfold on the stage. The mood and atmosphere are set in this way but the effect of this scene is wider than simply the setting of mood and atmosphere. It also gives us information about the events that occur later on in the play. It seems that the play opens while a battle is raging and the three witches will meet again when it is all over. They seem to have foreknowledge that that will be before the end of the day. The name of Macbeth is introduced and a connection is therefore established between themselves and Macbeth. Their closing lines, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair ------------------------------- Hover through the fog and filthy air," gives us a major clue to what the witches' objectives are. They find whatever is good, evil and whatever is evil they find good. They seek therefore, to turn goodness into evil and this directly links to the events concerning Macbeth that develop in the play. Shakespeare uses dramatic methods to display the witches in Act 1 scene 3. We can see the evil in the witches by the way they torment a
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