What are some of the traits portrayed by the characters in Act 4 Scene 1 of Macbeth?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 4 Scene 1 of Macbeth, Macbeth has decided to return to the witches' lair to get another prophecy.  When the scene opens, the three witches are creating a brew that they will use to cast their spell.  Hecate, who previously scolded the witches for dealing with Macbeth, is happy with the witches' new plan.  Macbeth arrives and demands another prophecy.  In the scene, Macbeth is arrogant and bossy as he tries to force the witches and the apparitions to confirm his desires.  However, the witches tell Macbeth that he cannot command the elements of fate and that he must just listen and receive what they have to offer.  The witches attempt to remain neutral in the scene as they are simply the harbingers of fate and destiny.  However, a hint of amusement is shown by one of them near the end of the meeting after Macbeth has asked to be shown the truth about Banquo's sons becoming king.  He is angry that they tell him that Banquo's sons will indeed take the throne for many generations, and the witch asks him why he is so surprised.  She says that he knew this already, and her tone mimics one of a mother mocking the folly of a child.  But Macbeth feels secure in his state because he foolishly misinterprets the prophecy.  Here, he is closed-minded and blinded by his own greedy ambition.