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What is the role of the witches in Macbeth's downfall other than the fact that they...

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danielghofrani | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 12, 2008 at 2:58 AM via web

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What is the role of the witches in Macbeth's downfall other than the fact that they give Macbeth overconfidence and fool him with double meaning?

I am writing an essay about the facts that caused Macbeth's downfall and I have a paragraph about the role of the witches, I already know 2 points:

1- the witch's make Macbeth feel over confident and they fool him with double meaning

2- ________

3- they dont have the power to bring Macbeth down , all they can do is to lead Macbeth and fool him

the third point sticks to the first point of the next paragraph which is about Macbeth's role in his Downfall but I dont have any other idea about what the witche's did that was important in Macbeth's downfall.

please help me

4 Answers | Add Yours

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 12, 2008 at 4:38 AM (Answer #1)

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You could point out that the witches symbolize the dark side of human nature.  They are absolutely evil...we know that from the beginning when they meet and choose Macbeth to be their plaything.  They live to torture and harass.  While they do not physically create the downfall of any human, they do lead the humans to fall by their own demise by way of misleading illusions. 

The witches represent the evil that is in Macbeth which does not manifest itself until the prophecy is made--Macbeth will be King.  The witches plant the seed, Lady Macbeth waters it with encouragement, and from there it grows wildly on its own within Macbeth's heart as he plans the murders of Banquo, Fleance, and the MacDuff family to secure his throne.

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leagye | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted March 12, 2008 at 12:35 PM (Answer #2)

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The weird sisters (as they are referred to in the text of the play - it is only in the stage directions that they are referred to as "witches") represent fate. A simple equation to keep in mind is that fate, combined with a healthy dose of a fatal flaw, equals the demise of a tragic hero. Now, Elizabethan audiences loved the supernatural, especially King Edward, who the play was possibly written for (or with him in mind at least.) The insertion of the weird sisters brings a popular supernatural element into the story, as well as takes care of the tragic hero's need for fate to play a part in his downfall. Research the "three fates" and you will see a parallel to the "weird sisters" of Macbeth. In other words, the three supernatural beings represent fate. They (it) brings about Macbeths downfall partially due to the fact that there is no getting around or toying with fate; Macbeth was never supposed to be king.

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anmilly10 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:42 PM (Answer #3)

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The other role the witches play is in the very beginning. They prophesized that Macbeth would be Thane of Cawdor and it happened. They predicted that he would also be King of Scotland. These predictions made Macbeth think about what being kind would be like. He tells Lady Macbeth and she has the idea to kill Duncan so he can rule as king and she as queen. It is all an act of selfishness. She tells him he is a coward which hurts his pride. Since he is known as a brave warrior, this caused him to break down even more. This is the other role that they play in the downfall of Macbeth.

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lfairs16 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 26, 2011 at 4:30 AM (Answer #4)

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the witches have tricked Macbeth. the witches never said he had to kill duncan, banquo and macduffs family to become king but macbeth believes he has to act upon the witches' prophecy.

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