The Witches' Evil Influence in Shakespeare's Macbeth Essay

The Witches' Evil Influence in Shakespeare's Macbeth Essay

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Audiences today enjoy both horror movies and books, content that such
experiences belong to the realm of entertainment. Macbeth’s
contemporary audience, however, watched the play against a context of
Renaissance beliefs about the paranormal and the divine. No wonder
then that these audiences’ reactions to the witches are so
contrasting.

Shakespeare portrays the witches in what seems to a 21st century
audience a stereotypical way. There are many things that come to mind
when we hear the word witches: Halloween, the Devil, magic, potions,
death, broomsticks and the clothes they wear which includes cloaks and
pointed hats. However, witches originate from long before Renaissance
times. At that time there were very few old people as life expectancy
was low. Country women tended to live longer and know more about
herbal medicines than townsfolk. This information was passed through
to their daughters. The women were old and therefore had wrinkled skin
and warts on their faces. Their men died before them through accidents
or fights. As a result of this, most of these women were widows
wearing black and having cats for company. It was a highly
superstitious time and the women used this to their advantage, making
a living by using white magic to cure and black magic to curse. People
even believed these women could see into the future. In the 14th
century a campaign began to destroy witches and by the time of
Elizabeth I, thousands of woman had been executed. When James I came
to the throne, believing himself to be God’s representative on earth
he considered himself the main target of the witches. He published his
own book on witches called ‘Demonology’ in which he listed their
powers such as the ability to curse,...


... middle of paper ...


...Through them, the witches show the
future of the Scottish and English thrones and confirm Banquo’s
prophecy. ‘Thou shalt get kings though

Thou be none.’

James 1 would have been able to trace his ancestory back to Banquo
which must mean that his children were kings. The witches appearance
in the play finishes when they perform a dance and disappear with
Hecate.

Our own attitude to Macbeth lies in the degree to which we feel that
it was the witches who caused Macbeth’s downfall. We can see their
spiteful intentions but we conclude that they are not active agents of
evil: they have no power to induce belief. They basically encourage
Macbeth’s boundless ambition and lead him to the way of evil. They are
important poetic symbols, manifestations of the ethical ambience of
the world of man. Because of this, they are an fundamental element of
the play.

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