How does Macbeth treat and speak to the witches? What does this demonstrate about Macbeth’s character and ambition?

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Macbeth reacts differently to the witches than his friend, Banquo.  When Banquo first sees the witches, he first makes fun of their appearance, asking if they are women or men.  “You should be women/ and yet your beards forbid me to interpret/ that you are so (Act I, Scene iii). Macbeth, on the other hand, instantly asks them to speak.  This shows that he believes in the supernatural and is willing to listen to what the witches have to say. After the witches speak to him and tell him he will be king, Banquo’s reaction is skeptical; he questions them. “If you can look into the seeds of time/And say which grain will grow and which will not/Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear/your favors or your hate” (Act I, Scene iii).  Despite the witches’ mysterious response to Banquo’s question, Macbeth wants to know more.  “Say from whence you owe this strange intelligence” (Act I, Scene iii).  He is upset when they vanish, leaving him to wonder about his future.  “Would they had stayed!” (Act I, Scene iii). 

Macbeth’s reaction to the witches in this scene demonstrates that Macbeth is ambitious; he wants to believe what the witches have to say.  This is further revealed when Ross comes in to tell him he is now the Thane of Cawdor.  Macbeth is excited, not just at the prospect of being Thane of Cawdor, but at the prospect of becoming King.  “Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor/the greatest is behind (Act I, Scene iii).  Macbeth, in his eagerness to believe that his future will hold great things, forgets that the witches are, as Banquo says, “instruments of evil” (Act I, Scene iii). 

 

 

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