Contrast two different meetings with the witches in Macbeth. How does Macbeth's entrance, use of language, and tone change?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Macbeth's first meeting with the witches, which occurs in Act 1, Macbeth approaches the witches with a quiet reverence. While he is suspicious, he is also in awe. He asks the witches to stay, but also claims they are imperfect speakers. Macbeth "charges" the witches to tell...

Read
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In Macbeth's first meeting with the witches, which occurs in Act 1, Macbeth approaches the witches with a quiet reverence. While he is suspicious, he is also in awe. He asks the witches to stay, but also claims they are imperfect speakers. Macbeth "charges" the witches to tell him more. He is captivated by the prophecies and curious about how they will come true. However, the witches do not answer him. His language is poetic, but controlled, and he appears to be a faithful, yet curious, civil servant. 

It is a different scene when Macbeth returns to the witches. In Act 4, scene 1, Macbeth appears to hurriedly enter. He calls the witches "midnight hags," "secret" and "black." He insults them and is wilder than before. Macbeth demands the witches answer his questions, but they remain cryptic. This makes Macbeth angry, and the witches conjure apparitions that appear to him. These apparitions give more prophesies, which push Macbeth further into his paranoia and madness. Indeed, the second meeting with the witches is far more severe. The mood is wild, and the witches appear more powerful. Macbeth's language becomes more violent and wild, as well. This is the beginning of his final descent into irrational madness.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team