I need three important points for my thesis how the witches influenced Macbeth to kill Duncan in Macbeth.

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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How Shakespeare reveals his characters:

1.What characters say to each other

2.What characters say about other characters

3.What characters say to themselves

4.What characters do (actions).

Notice, that the Witches are only revealed through language. Only #1-3 apply, not #4.  They do not do anything.  Their actions are non-invasive.  They exist on the periphery of society, commenting on it rather than participating in it.

As such, Language is Power: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  He who controls language, controls others. Language (argument) is used to attain and maintain position by royalty, between nations, by clergy in the church.

Macbeth is won over by language from women:

The Witches  provide Macbeth the nouns:

“All hail, Macbeth,

Thane of Glamis,

Thane of Cawdor,

That shalt be King hereafter.”


Lady Macbeth provides Macbeth the verbs:

•“Look like the time.” •“Bear welcome…” •“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” •“Leave all the rest to me.” (I.v.66-76)

Specifically, the Witches use the language of Equivocation: •Shakespeare often uses intentionally vague language for ambiguity, double meaning, and to spare syllables.

"Something wicked this way comes." (IV.i.)

•They use the language of confusion; ambiguity; double meanings; half-truths; paradoxes; riddles

•“Foul is fair and fair is foul”
•“nothing is but what is not”
•“Lesser than Macbeth and greater.”

•They use Equivocal Morality to appeal to Macbeth's heightened sense of ambition as a male:

How do you know what’s good, or who’s good, if there’s overlap between good and evil ("foul is fair")?

•“These solicitings cannot be evil, cannot be good…”

In the end, the witches are like the oracles of Ancient Greek tragedies.  They are like the Riddle of the Sphinx.  Even when the male thinks he has answered their equivocations correctly, he will later learn that there was a duality or paradoxical "other" side to the riddle which he originally forgot.  This other side is indicative of the female: males think like males, not like females.  In this way, the witches punish Macbeth for thinking like a typical arrogant male.

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