In Act 4 Scene 1, why is the witches' chant given in such detail?

1 Answer | Add Yours

amy-lepore's profile pic

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

Posted on

This is Shakespeare's way of showing us just how evil the witches are and what sort of trouble Macbeth is in for making deals with these women.  They aren't doing Macbeth any favors...they are simply toying with him because he is an overly ambitious idiot of a human.  They use him as a plaything. 

We also know by their words that Macbeth's character has changed completely.  The second witch announces his approach by saying, "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."

The evil the witches are capable of is especially illustrated in some of the ingredients such as an Adder's forked tongue and the finger of a baby who was strangled at birth.

The rhythm of their chant is also helpful in creating an evil sing-song mood for the scene.

Shakespeare sets all this up and then allows Macbeth to come strolling in and demanding that these women show him what he's come to know.  He's in no position to demand, but his ego is so overinflated by this time that he thinks he controls everything and everyone. 

All of this helps build the suspense for the remainder of the play as well.


We’ve answered 318,908 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question