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From the very first scene it is clear that the witches will have a
powerful part in the play. They meet in stormy weather and speak of
thunder, lightning, fog and filthy air, all this conjures up images of
evil and supernatural powers being at the centre of this play. The
first 'powerful' lines in the play- 'Fair is foul and foul is fair'
(A1, Sc1, Ln12) seem to contradict each other, how ever they sum up
the play very well in showing that what is good is evil and what is
evil is good, e.g. Macbeth is a Scottish nobleman, trusted by King and
country and yet he kills his King and one of closest friends (Banquo)
to claim the throne. When Macbeth's first line is echoing the same
words 'So foul and fair a day I have not seen.' (A1, Sc2, Ln38) you
see how deeply the link between Macbeth and the witches go. This echo
introduces the idea of a prophecy of evil entwined with good.
At first when the witch speak to Macbeth he seems amazed and 'rapt
withal' (A1, Sc 3, Ln57). But when they go to leave he says 'Stay, you
imperfect speakers, tell me more.' (A1, Sc3, Ln70) it makes you wonder
whether he's already thought about what they are saying about being
king. The witches seem to know that Macbeth already wants to become
King and that he will become Thane of Cawdor.
Macbeth and the witches seem unnaturally close and act with one mind,
but the witches have the overall control. From now on in the play
Macbeth is under the witches' spell. Although the witches have a small
part in the play, even with Act3, Sc5 and Act4, Sc11, Lines 39-43,
being added after Shakespeare wrote this- due to the witches'
popularity-, they are always in the thoughts of Macbeth- and probably
the audience too.
When the consequences of the murders of Duncan and Banquo are too much
for Macbeth to handle, his instinct is to go back to the witches (A4,
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such evil and get away with it.
Macbeth would probably never have thought seriously about killing
Duncan if the witches had not 'planted' the idea into his head. Once
Macbeth kills for the first time, he has to cover up his wrong doings,
by killing even more people, or risk loosing everything he has worked
so hard for.
Another instance where the witches 'played with' him is with the
apparitions. Macbeth had trust in the witches, and he wanted to know
more about what the future had in store for him so he went to the
witches and demanded that they tell him about the future. When the
witches showed him the second apparition, it said, "â€¦none of woman
born, shall harm Macbeth." (A4, Sc1) Then, the witches showed him
another apparition which said "Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
, Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill, Shall come against him."
(A4, Sc1). These two apparitions told Macbeth that he wouldn't die of
any man born by a woman, and that he wouldn't be vanquished until
Great Birnam Wood came to Dunsinane Hill, but this led him into a
sense of false security, because he believed everything that they said
even though they were only telling him their twisted version of the
Macbeth's trust in what the witches tell him becomes stronger later on
in the play. Before the battle when Macbeth was talking to the doctor
he told the doctor that he wasn't afraid, and he bragged of what the
third apparition told him. Also during the battle with Young Siward,
Macbeth says how Siward was born a woman and therefore Macbeth is not
afraid of him. Macbeth bragging of the stories he heard from the
witches show they have a strong influence over him.
The witches were able to influence Macbeth through their words of the
future. They usually only told him their side of the truth and they
always left him wanting to know more about the future. The witches had
the most influence over Macbeth, more than his wife.
By the end of the play, Macbeth had put all his trust in the witches'
apparitions. Also, had it not been for the witches' initial
predictions, Macbeth would probably not of thought about trying to
take the throne in the first place. Therefore, through the witches
Shakespeare put his tragedy of Macbeth into place.