Homework Help

What are the supernatural elements in Shakespeare's Macbeth?Discuss elaborately.

user profile pic

j5 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 13, 2010 at 8:09 PM via web

dislike 3 like

What are the supernatural elements in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

Discuss elaborately.

3 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 14, 2010 at 1:57 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Clearly, the supernatural elements in this play are the witches.  A case could be made that they are old hags who are just trying to stir up trouble.  However, there is some clear evidence they do have at least some supernatural powers:

  1. They appear and disappear without notice.
  2. They do cast spells--or at least make the potions to do so.
  3. They can fly--or at least they talk about flying.
  4. They can float to sea in a sieve.
  5. They appear to see into the future (as their predictions to Macbeth and Banquo demonstrate).
  6. They can create apparitions which can speak.
  7. They appear to know things they shouldn't know (as the Thane of Cawdor announcement).

The witches are clearly the dominent supernatural element in Macbeth.

Lori Steinbach

user profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 14, 2010 at 6:08 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

In addition to the witches, in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth calls on spirits, Macbeth seems to hold to traditional Christian views of the afterlife, and nature reflects the state of human affairs.

Lady Macbeth's views appear to be much closer to those of the witches than they are to traditional Christianity.  She begs or pleads (prays?) with the murdering ministers to make her androgynous (as are the witches with their beards, of course), more like an aggressive man, as she sees men. 

Macbeth clearly thinks in terms of traditional good and evil, as his soliloquies demonstrate, and worries about the consequences for his actions in the afterlife.  His view of consequences in the afterlife for sins committed on earth seems to be traditional Christian. 

Horses become cannibalistic, storms rage, etc., as nature mimics the sordid, unnatural state of affairs in Scotland.  Nature is in tune with humanity, and supernaturally reflects the unnatural behaviors of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. 

The supernatural is prevalent in the play.  From the eerie opening scene and the bearded weird sisters and the foul weather to horses eating each other to Macbeth's visions to most of the play taking place at night, the eerie, supernatural atmosphere covers the play, literally and figuratively. 

user profile pic

cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 14, 2010 at 7:28 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 1 like

In addition to the witches, their ruler Hecate is another element of the supernatural that is included in the play.  She is the Greco-Roman goddess of magic and is often associated with other things related to magic such as witches and crossroads.  In Macbeth, she is angry with the witches in Act 3 Scene 5 for giving Macbeth so much information and she tells them that they must fix the trouble that they have made.  She reminds the witches that "security is mortals' chiefest enemy" and tells them to use this against Macbeth.  After this, the witches create the spell in which they conjure the three apparitions that lead Macbeth to his doom.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes