How did the witches contribute to Macbeth's downfall in William Shakespeare's Macbeth?

The witches contribute to Macbeth's downfall by influencing his ambitious nature and offering him misleading prophecies. By telling Macbeth that he will become the future king of Scotland, the witches stimulate his ambition. Once Macbeth kills the king, he damns his soul and transforms into a bloodthirsty tyrant. The witches also manipulate Macbeth into becoming overconfident and boldly challenging Malcolm and Macduff's army, which leads to his death in the final battle.

Expert Answers

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

The Three Witches in Macbeth are portrayed as nefarious forces that influence Macbeth to embrace his ambition by assassinating King Duncan, which negatively affects his mental health and damns his soul. In act 1, scene 3, the witches appear on the heath following Macbeth and Banquo's victories and address Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor and future king of Scotland. Shortly after they disappear, one of their prophecies is fulfilled when Macbeth learns that he has been named Thane of Cawdor, which is astonishing news that perplexes both Macbeth and Banquo. Macbeth is consumed with the thought of becoming King of Scotland and entertains the idea of assassinating King Duncan.

The witches influence Macbeth to recognize his ambition, and Lady Macbeth also encourages him to kill the king. Even though Macbeth has the opportunity to dismiss their prophecy, their predictions are a significant factor motivating him to commit regicide. Although the witches can tell the future, Shakespeare shows that they do not...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1046 words.)

Unlock 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
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on