There is good reason why Macbeth opens with the witches or 'weird sisters' as they are known.
Shakespeare adds a supernatural dimension that purposely conspires against Macbeth and his kingdom.
Macbeth is easily manipulated and persuaded and his impatient wife, Lady Macbeth does not want to leave anything to chance and is so eager for power that the supernatural
leads her into an unnatural, phantasmagoric realm of witchcraft, insomnia and madness. ...She figuratively transforms herself into an unnatural, desexualized evil spirit.
Macbeth is easily led by the witches and does begin to believe that not only will be be Thane of Cawdor....but KING!
The Witches spark the ambitious nature in Macbeth, as he knows his rise to power would greatly be enhanced...
The overriding belief in the power of the witches - and so the supernatural - seems to make it easier for Macbeth to move forward with the plans. The witches words spur him on and he becomes
while Lady Macbeth appears to be increasingly guilt-ridden ...as evidenced by her sleepwalking episodes...
Macbeth later tells Macduff that
The mind I sway by, and the heart I bear
Shall never sag with doubt, nor shake with fear
Macbeth increasingly relies on his own interpretation of the witches' prophesies which can be misleading and ambiguous.
His wife's death, has a profound effect of Macbeth rendering him totally weary. He becomes his own victim and even though he can see that the witches propesies are contributing to his own destruction and life is futile he presses on.
it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (V.v)
Refer to the eNotes study guide for an understanding of the contributions of various characters to the outcome og the play.
- The witches create a supernatural environment
“In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”
- The witches are mysterious and supernatural
“That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, And yet are on't? Live you?”
- The witches possess supernatural powers such when they vanish into the air
“Into the air; and what seem'd corporal melted, As breath into the wind. Would they had stay'd!”
- In the 17th century, however, many believed that witches spoke this way so it may have been terrifying for some audience to listen to “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”
- Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear Things that do sound so fair? I' the name of truth,Are ye fantastical, or that indeedWhich outwardly ye show? My noble partnerYou greet with present grace and great prediction Of noble having and of royal hope,
History Snack: Although many people (like King James) believed in and feared the power of witches, there was also plenty of skepticism about witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1584, Reginald Scot wrote The Discovery of Witchcraft, which set out to debunk myths about "the compacts and contracts of witches with devils and all infernal spirits or familiars [as] erroneous novelties and imaginary conceptions" (from the title page of the third edition, 1665). In Macbeth Shakespeare never really lands on one side or the other about the debate.
When the witches have the babys and bloods and the heads
The ghost of banquo –guilt
When the lady Macbeth said unsex me here she want to the spirits to make her less lady like
Macbeth can see the dagger, because of the desire to kill Duncan and become king
The play has supernatural themes so that the characters can use it as an excuse to blame things on
its guilt and fear that are creating this illusion that witches are real