In Macbeth, why are the witches the most powerful characters in the play?  

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One could argue that the Three Witches are the most powerful characters because their prophecies influence Macbeth to assassinate King Duncan, drive the plot of the play, and significantly contribute to his downfall. When the witches initially meet Macbeth and Banquo on the heath in act one, scene three,...

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One could argue that the Three Witches are the most powerful characters because their prophecies influence Macbeth to assassinate King Duncan, drive the plot of the play, and significantly contribute to his downfall. When the witches initially meet Macbeth and Banquo on the heath in act one, scene three, they proceed to call Macbeth Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and future King of Scotland before telling Banquo that his descendants will reign as kings. After they disappear, Ross and Angus inform Macbeth that he has been given the title Thane of Cawdor, which immediately incites Macbeth's ambition to become King of Scotland. In order to become King of Scotland, Macbeth proceeds to assassinate King Duncan, which significantly affects the trajectory of the play and Lady Macbeth's mental stability. The meeting between the Three Witches is considered the inciting incident and they are able to play on Macbeth's ambition, which influences him to engage in violent acts. In addition to killing King Duncan, Macbeth also murders Banquo to protect his legacy.

The witches' second set of prophecies also influence Macbeth to become overconfident and contribute to his demise. After meeting with them again in act four, scene one, Macbeth believes that no man born of a woman can harm him and is encouraged to remain resolute, violent, and determined. Tragically, Macbeth accepts their prophecies once again and continues to behave like a ruthless tyrant. Eventually, Macbeth's army is defeated and he dies at the hands of Macduff. Overall, the Three Witches influence Macbeth to assassinate King Duncan, murder Banquo to protect his legacy, and become overconfident when facing Malcolm's army. All three scenarios contribute to Macbeth's demise, which is why the witches are the most powerful characters in the play.

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The witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth are the most powerful characters in the play thanks to their ability to impact the actions of Macbeth. Their impact on Macbeth is evidenced in his murder of King Duncan, an event that initiates a violent domino effect. When Macbeth kills King Duncan, he sets into motion a series of chaotic and deadly events that impact every other character in the play.

Some scholars argue that the witches are powerful supernatural beings who toy with Macbeth as a way to express their dominion, or their authority, over humans. Other scholars discuss the power of the witches in the context of Macbeth's extremely flawed character; the power of the witches is extreme because Macbeth is overly ambitious, which makes him highly suggestible to their predictions about his future.

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In Macbeth, the witches are the most powerful characters because of their ability to influence Macbeth. To provide an example of this, consider Macbeth before he meets with the witches. His loyalty to King Duncan is without a doubt: he risks his life for Duncan on the battlefield, for instance, and is already the Thane of Glamis, a title which further highlights his loyalty to and special relationship with the king.

Once Macbeth meets with the witches and hears their prophecies, Macbeth's character and values begin to rapidly change. When Duncan makes him the Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth perceives this act as proof that the witches are correct when, in reality, it is a token of Duncan's gratitude. Moreover, Macbeth immediately starts to think about murdering Duncan. He has clearly never had thoughts like this before since he is disgusted and frightened by them, as shown in Act I, Scene III:

Why do I yield to that suggestion

Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair

And make my seated heart knock at my ribs.

So, the witches play a pivotal role in eroding Macbeth's loyalty to Duncan and awakening his inner ambition. It is for these reasons that they are the most powerful characters in the play. 

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One could justify that the witches in Mabeth are the most powerful characters in the play. Without the witches, Macbeth would have not heard the prophecies, desired the throne so badly (as a result of his raised ambitious nature), murdered Duncan and Banquo, and died at the hands of Macduff.

Also, given that Macbeth returns to the witches later in the play, to find out more information, shows that he even identifies the witches as powerful.

Not only do the witches have power over the happenings of the play, they also have power over the setting and mood of the play. The play opens with the witches. Thunder and lightening are seen and heard. Normally, the opening of a scene shows some of the most important characters (or most powerful). Given that the play opens with them, the witches can be seen as being important enough (or powerful enough) to open the play with.

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