The fantastical and grotesque witches are among the most memorable
figures in the play.
* How does Shakespeare characterize the witches?
* What is their thematic significance?
How does Shakespeare characterize the witches?
In the play Macbeth, the witches have been characterised intimately.
Shakespeare has portrayed them as evil hags that are possessed by the
The belief that witches are part of reality was widespread. The book,
Daemonologie (published 1599), written by James I, shows that James
firmly believed in the power of witchcraft and the harm that it could
The witches in Macbeth are the antithesis of GodÂ’s divine commands.
They appear in bad weather, talk in riddles and their appearance is
somewhat inhuman. They have no respect for anyone and, as their
actions imply, they do their foretelling for their own good, not for
The witches could have originated from three possible phenomena: the
Three Fates or Norns, devils, or sorcerers. Historically the Three
Fates have the omnipotent power of controlling all things. The old
English word Â‘WyrdÂ’ was a noun meaning Â‘FateÂ’, forming the connection
between the Three Fates and MacbethÂ’s Â‘WeÑ—rd SistersÂ’ (act 1, scene
3). However, his Â‘WeÑ—rd SistersÂ’ have the traditional accessories and
attitudes of normal witches, like possessing familiars, and, unlike
Norns who control absolutely the past, present and future, the witches
only influence these factors. ShakespeareÂ’s intention in the play was
to show how Macbeth brings about his own downfa...
... middle of paper ...
...ry, not forced by the witches to do so. So we must
conclude that Macbeth brought on his own fate.
The witchesÂ’ prophecies held MacbethÂ’s fate hidden deep inside. Their
true meanings were not shown until Macbeth and his wife were deceased.
His downfall was caused by his weakness for ambition and his optimism.
So the witchesÂ’ thematic significance in Macbeth is to control the
atmosphere and the story line of the play. Their evilness affects
MacbethÂ’s actions throughout, as does their ability to create fate and
corruption, and to manipulate an individuals mind. Their non-existent
gender, their perverse pleasure in using their knowledge to play with
the future of human beings, and their ability to twist peoples minds,
together with their supernatural appearance and settings create the
evil and darkness of the play.
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