How does Macbeth react to the witches' predictions? What does his reaction tell us?think about how long it takes macbeth to think about the murder after hearing the witches.

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luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It doesn't take Macbeth long to have the thought of murdering Duncan cross his mind.  Around line 133 of Act 1, sc. 3, upon hearing that he has just been given the title Thane of Cawdor as the witches predicted, he says, "The greatest is behind." This means that the next prophecy, that of being king, is the greatest prophecy and it is next in line. Less than 20 lines after that he says, in an aside of about 16 lines, that what he's heard so far shows that the witches speak some truth and that makes him happy at the thought of possibly becoming king.  However, in order to become king, he knows that Duncan must die, and that scares him.  He goes on to suggest that the thought of killing Duncan is in his head and that truly frightens him.  The hint is there that perhaps, being a cousin to the king, the thought of taking Duncan's place on the throne has occurred to Macbeth before, but he's always squelched the thought and not given it the light of day.  Macbeth is an ambitious man, as even his wife acknowledges in scene 5 of Act 1.  Macbeth's reaction to the witches' prophecies tells us, as Lady Macbeth noted, he has ambition, but he also has some qualms about doing anything illegal or immoral.  He tries to hide the thoughts he has of killing Duncan.