For Macbeth, I need help writing an essay.How does Shakespeare use the witches as ironic confidantes for Macbeth and why is their role significant to the play as a whole? I don't quite understand...

For Macbeth, I need help writing an essay.

How does Shakespeare use the witches as ironic confidantes for Macbeth and why is their role significant to the play as a whole? I don't quite understand how they are ironic confidantes. Can you elaborate or explain please? Also, some quotes would be very hepful.

Thank you!

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I suppose the witches could be called ironic confidantes because they offer Macbeth bad advice and yet he trusts them because he wants to believe in them, and he goes back to them for more advice. They are the worst possible confidantes. (Irony, as I understand it, is a kind of black humor. It is something that would be funny if it were not so painful. The irony here is that he is seeking advice from creatures who are out to ruin him.) Finally, when he realizes that the witches have been misleading him all along, he says to Macduff in Act 5, Scene 8:

And be these juggling fiends no more believed

That palter with us in a double sense,

That keepthe word of promise to our ear

And break it to our hope.

Macbeth's main consultation with the three witches occurs in Act 4, Scene 1. And it is here that they show how they are ironic confidantes, encouraging him to be bold and tyrannical while at the same time hinting at how he will meet his downfall if he follows their advice. For example, the Second Apparation tells him:

Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn

The power of man, for none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth.

Yet the Second Apparation is described as a Bloody Child, which obviously symbolizes the infant Macduff and foreshadows the fact that Macbeth wlll be vanquished by a man who was not exactly of woman born because he was delivered by a Caesarean operation. As Macduff tells Macbeth in Act 5, Scene 8:

Despair thy charm

And let the angel whom thou still hast served

Tell thee Macduff was from his mother's womb

Untimely ripped.

Why is their role significant to the play as a whole? Good question. Mainly, they serve to make Macbeth more of a tragic hero and less of an out-and-out villain like Iago or Richard III. Shakespeare did not want Macbeth to be a pure villain but a good man who was manipulated by his wife and deceived by supernatural creatures. We are supposed to feel a little sorry for him at the end. I don't know whether we really do. You are entitled to say--if you want to--how you really feel about him when he is hated and abandoned and finally killed.

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