Discuss the influence of the witches' prophecies on MACBETH'S decision to murder DUNCAN.Question for about 10 marks

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Stephanie Gregg eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Macbeth meets the witches, they greet him with the title "Thane of Cawdor," which he does not yet know that he is to receive.  They follow this strange pronunciation with the prophecy that he is to be king as well.  Macbeth finds this all quite odd, as does Banquo, who is told that not he but his children will inhabit the throne.  While puzzled, men suspect the prophecies to be rants of old women--that is, until soldiers come and greet Macbeth with the news that the Thane of Cawdor has been executed and Macbeth now bears the title.  He speculates with Banquo whether the witches might know more than they seem.  Banquo reasonably suggests that some people tell half-truths to provoke others to misguided action.  Macbeth, though, ponders whether his place on the throne, if he indeed is destined to have it, will come naturally or as a result of some action on his part.  This thought leads to the idea that perhaps he is meant to murder Duncan in order to claim the throne for himself, an idea that Lady Macbeth immediately seizes and cultivates. While the witches planted the seed of Macbeth's ambition, it is Lady Macbeth who nourishes it and encourages it to come to fruition.