To be effective, an opening scene must accomplish a variety of purposes. What different functions are served by Act I scene 1 of Macbeth?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is something about this opening scene that gives the play its overall tone of menacing evil. The way that the witches chant together, almost as if there words were an incantation and they were casting a spell, immediately plunges us into the world of evil and witches. We also need to be aware of the dramatic impact of such a scene on an audience. It is very easy to dismiss such aspects because we study plays like this rather than trying to visualise what they would look like. However, let us imagine we are in the audience, watching this opening scene. Depending on how the director chooses to play it, the opening scene is likely to involve darkness, thunder and a storm, dramatically introducing the witches but also casting a shadow over the rest of the play. Note too, the words of the witches and the way that they seem to represent chaos through the paradoxes of their speech. They refer to a time "when the battle is lost and one" and "Fair is foul, and foul is fair," indicating the way that they represent an anarchic state that overturns the normal order of things. Starting this play in such a fashion clearly emphasises the role of evil in the play and also highlights the importance of the witches in Macbeth's downfall.

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