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In ‘Macbeth’ which is written by William Shakespeare he includes evil,
witches and the supernatural.
Shakespeare wrote ‘Macbeth’ in 1605 for a Jacobean audience. In 1605
James I was the king and he was really interested in the supernatural.
He also wrote his own book called ‘On Demonology’.
Back in the early 17th century, basically everyone believed in witches
and the supernatural. Nowadays in 2005, practically no one believes in
witchcraft. In 1605, people didn’t know why things like illness and
drought happened, that’s why they thought it was witches. In modern
times, there are scientific reasons why things happen.
Shakespeare’s main examples of evil in the play are the witches, the
supernatural and the murder of the king.
In 1605, people believed in the divine right of kings. This is wgere a
king is appointed by God. Committing regicide (killing the king) was
seen as one of the worst sins in 1605 and that’s why Shakespeare
includes it in his play.
The play starts at act 1, scene 1. It is set in an open place with
“thunder and lightning”. The first characters that are seen in the
play are the 3 witches. This sets the tone for the play. It shows that
the play is about evil and has a dark side to it. The witches talk
about meeting Macbeth. They seek him out, they plan to meet him. So it
isn’t a coincidence when the witches meet Macbeth later in the play
because witch 3 says “There to meet with Macbeth”. In act 1, scene 3,
Macbeth meets the witches for the first time. The witches tell Macbeth
their predictions. They predict that he will become Thane of Cawdor
and then become the king. These predictions later turn out to be true.
Banquo, one of Macbeth’s closest friends is there at the time and the
witches predict that his sons will be future kings. In the same scene
Macbeth does become Thane of Cawdor. This ignites his ambition and
gets him thinking that he could also become king.
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Macbeth believe the witches and believe in their power. Shakespeare
uses stage directions to create mystery. The witches just “vanish” and
no one knows where they have gone.
The witches still have an influence on the play even in scenes where
they are not present. When the “invisible” dagger leads Macbeth to
King Duncan’s chamber, is it in Macbeth’s mind or is it an evil trick
put there by the witches? Also on the night Macbeth commits regicide,
there is a storm, thunder and lightning. After Macbeth has killed the
King, on his way back to his chamber he hears voices saying “Macbeth
shall sleep no more”. Is this the witches taunting him? This makes
Macbeth agitated and he can’t sleep. Another incident is at the
banquet when only Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo. The ghost is
“bloody” and has “gory locks”. We don’t know if the witches have sent
it or if it is Macbeth’s guilty conscience. Lady Macbeth tries to
cover up for her husband and says he is ill.
In act 4, scene 1, the witches prepare to meet Macbeth again. They
create a foul potion with nasty ingredients. This scene would have
been fascinating for James I, because he was interested in witchcraft
The witches summon 3 apparitions to talk to Macbeth. The first
apparition was a stick with a head on it. This is symbolic because
Macbeth’s head is cut off at the end of the play. The apparition also
says “Beware Macduff”.
The second apparition is in the form of a bloody child. This could be
Lady Macbeth’s dead baby, or Macduff born by caesarean. The apparition
says “None of woman born shall harm Macbeth”. This gives Macbeth a
false sense of security and makes him think no one can harm him. The
witches betray him, just like he has betrayed others.
The third apparition is a child crowned as King and says that Macbeth
shall be King till Birnam wood moves to Dunsinane. The witches trick
Macbeth and they deceive him by showing him these apparitions.
Shakespeare uses clever language in the play to reinforce the theme of
evil. He uses phrases like “O! Full of scorpions is my mind dear
wife”. He means that his mind is being attacked by the witches and he
is thinking evil thoughts. He also says “Act like the flower, but be
the serpent under it”. This means act all nice and friendly to
everyone, but when no ones around be a serpent and be ruthless.
At the start of the play the witches say “Foul is fair and foul is
fair. This really sets the tone for the play because it tells us that
the play is going to be about witches and the supernatural. When the
play starts with the witches saying that, we immediately know that the
play is about witches.
This would have been a really shocking play in 1605 and would have
been one of a kind. There probably wouldn’t have been anyone else in
1605 who would dare to write about witches and regicide. Also this
play would have raised serious questions like, do witches exist? How
powerful are they? The play was a story about good vs. Evil.