witches and Witchcraft in Jacobean Society and Macbeth Essays

witches and Witchcraft in Jacobean Society and Macbeth Essays

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The people in the Jacobean era believed in the strong presence of evil that plagued their world and specifically accused witches to be responsible for such evil. These influential beliefs can be seen as a common motif in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where the witches have shaped Macbeth’s fate. Moreover the influence and fear of witches and witchcraft in Jacobean society has led to chaotic persecution of those associated with the practice and in Macbeth, the influence of witchcraft incited terror on one king and make decisions of an entire nation. The appearance and abilities of witches and witchcraft are motifs in Jacobean society and in Macbeth.
In Jacobean society, a witch’s appearance were described as old, wrinkled, lean and deformed. They would have unkempt and wild appearances where one cannot distinguish their gender (Porterfield, Warning, Familiarity, and Ridicule). Facial hair was also an indication that a woman might be a witch (Metclaf, The Presentation of Jacobean). They also were known to keep familiars or servants that did their bidding. These familiars were in animal form usually as a cat or toad (First Folio of Macbeth).
Furthermore, under James VI, qualities of an English and Scottish witch intertwined thus the appearance of a recluse English witch who preferred grim activities joined with the appearance of a social Scottish witch who enjoyed dancing (Thompson, Macbeth, King James, and the Witches). Apart from these characteristics witches assemble in covens and hold sabbats. These sabbats were celebrations or rituals in which the witches formed together supposedly to engage in erotic activities and cannibalistic feasts. These celebrations or rituals were a time for mischief and demonic activity (Metclaf, The Presen...


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...e lives of individuals. They are not known to set over the boundaries of what is male and what is female with their appearance. The witches distorted the essence of what makes humanity.
Furthermore, the witches turned good things into bad such as Macbeth who was a brave and honorable man who turned into arrogant tyrant. His rule brought upon anarchy and chaos in a once peaceful kingdom. His unchecked ambition and power was not the only factor to bring him to the edge but also the push from the alluring prophecies made by the witches that tempted him to do things he should not have done. The witches incantation in Act 1 Scene 1 of what is foul becomes fair and what is fair becomes foul is the main connection to the theme of disordered nature (Shakespeare, 272). Due to witchcraft, what was good turned bad and what was bad turned good a disorder nature of the world.

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