In the play Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3, what is Macbeth's first reaction to the three witches through his words and actions?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Macbeth first meets the witches and hears their prediction, Macbeth questions the witches, demands more from them, and then ponders what the prophesy might mean.  Macbeth's only large speech here directed totally to the witches shows his interest in their prophesy, for he begs them three times for more information before demanding more.  Between lines 70-78, Macbeth says, "tell me more," "I know I am Thane if Glamis; / But how of Cawdor?" and "say from whence you owe this strange intelligence."  When the witches don't answer, Macbeth finally demands the answer from them.  "Speak, I charge you!"  Of course, the witches choose this perfect moment to vanish, leaving Macbeth to his thoughts.  The rest of the scene reveals Macbeth's newfound obsession with the discovery.  Even Banquo notices that Macbeth is "rapt" in discussing this strange happening.  In reasoning within his own mind what the prophesy might mean, Macbeth's first pangs of vaulted ambition can be found.  Watch out Duncan!

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Macbeth first hears the witches' prophecies, he is startled and fearful. Banquo notices that Macbeth seems shaken and transfixed by what he has heard. He doesn't reply first to what the witches have said; Banquo responds first. Macbeth recovers and orders the witches to stay and tell him more. He wants to know how he can be Thane of Cawdor when that man still lives. He says he can be King no more than he can be Cawdor. He wants to know where the witches got their information and why they have told it to him and Banquo. He orders them to give him answers to these questions. When the witches disappear instead, Macbeth is filled with regret: "Would they had stayed!"

kmieciakp | Student

Condescending superiority.  He uses the imperative tone, belittles their abilities "if you can," and scoffs at their identity, calling them "what" rather than "who."  After they do speak, he insults them personally for their mistaken visions--"imperfect speakers."  He dismisses their first vision as obvious "I know that I am Thane of Glamis" and further justifies his "ad hominim" attack by couching his superior knowledge of truth in a question that he already knows the answer to (the way a student might mock a teacher's error by posing the teacher's point in a question designed to expose the teacher's mistake and by contrast, the student's superior knowledge).  He then continues the questioning assault, daring them to answer.  When they leave, he wins--his "Would they had stay'd!" is the delight of the victor who wishes he could have messed with them some more.  But since they've left, he satisfies his lingering urge to gloat by teasing Banquo: yeah, right, as if Banquo's kids would ever be kings.

His first reaction shows he's a bully, and even a bully to his best friend--though he couches the cut to Banquo in a joke, as a bully will do.

gboselawa | Student

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solution | Student

macbeth and banqueo enter..dadada daann! the witches are happy to see banqueo and macbeth. the wiches inform macbeth about his bright futre..that macbeth will be the next thane of cowdor, and the next king of scotland , on hearing this macbeth pees in his panty and the witches had to change his dippy ,just to pleace him. after theis macbeth demands to hear more about his futer and is pleased. the wiches profices turns put to be true and macbeth's fiath on the witches strenghtenes!