Supernatural in Shakespeare's Macbeth - Role of the Witches Essay

Supernatural in Shakespeare's Macbeth - Role of the Witches Essay

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The Role of the Witches in Macbeth  


When Shakespeare wrote his play, Macbeth in 1606 a large majority of people were interested in witchcraft. This is why Shakespeare made the witches and the witches’ prophecies play a major part in the storyline of the play. In the time of Macbeth witches were not thought to be supernatural beings themselves, but supposedly gained their powers by selling their souls to Satan. There can be little doubt that most of Shakespeare’s audience would have believed in witches, and for the purpose of the play, at least, Shakespeare also accepted their reality.

The three witches in the tragedy Macbeth are introduced at the beginning of the play and the brief opening few scenes give an immediate impression of mystery, horror and uncertainty. This is a sign of things to come as witchcraft is used as one of the main themes of the play. The witches create an atmosphere of evil and disorder.

In the opening scene the weather is thunder and lightning which is a mirror image of the way the witches are perceived. When you think of thunder and lightning you think of evil and destruction, this is exactly the way witches are represented in this play. They are evil and cause destruction in Macbeth’s life.

Banquo says in act 1 scene 3 line 124:

"The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray's In deepest consequence."

He thinks and says bad things of the witches. He calls them instruments of darkness and the devil. He believes that these prophecies will only bring harm even before anything begins to happen. He sees beyond the witches and can see that they are evil where as Macbeth is taken in by the witches and this ‘blindness’ is what causes his downhill spiral o...


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...e is responsible for his own destiny. This is an essential theme in this tragedy. Macbeth chooses to gamble with his soul and when he does this it is only him who chooses to lose it. He is responsible for anything he does and must take total accountability for his actions. Macbeth is the one who made the final decision to carry out his actions. He made these final decisions and continued with the killings to cover that of King Duncan. However where as some facts show that the results were all of his own doing, in act 4 he returns to the witches voluntarily to find out his fate in order to see what actions he should take. This suggests that the witches did have a great influence on his actions.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999.

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