Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What Does Hecate Want The Witches To Do

What does Hecate want the witches to do?


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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hecate, the "mistress of the witches," doesn't show up until Act III, scene 5. Like Macbeth, we as an audience have believed the three Weird sisters were frightening and powerful—until Hecate's arrival.

Hecate is very angry that the witches have acted without consulting with her first. She is also angry that they have helped Macbeth. She doesn't think he's worthy of their aid, and she tells them she knows he won't do anything for them in return for their help. She calls him "spiteful and wrathful" and out only for himself. Therefore, she wants the witches to trick him and lead him to his doom.

While all along we have been frightened of the Weird Sisters, we see them cowed and intimidated by Hecate. She scolds them severely saying:

Saucy and overbold, how did you dare
To trade and traffic with Macbeth
In riddles and affairs of death,
And I, the mistress of your charms,
The close contriver of all harms,
Was never called to bear my part,
Or show the glory of our art?
She gives the witches orders to meet her later and says she will conjure "artificial sprites" that will confuse and confound Macbeth. The witches are relieved when she is gone and want to get away fast before she comes back. They say:
let’s make haste; she’ll soon be back again.
Clearly, Macbeth has been dealing with amateurs. Now that Hecate is on the scene, he is in real trouble, although he does not know it.

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Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To answer this question, take a look at Act III, Scene V of Macbeth, in which Hecate, the ruler of the witches, gives them explicit instructions about what to do next. Firstly, she tells them that in the morning, they must meet her in the "pit of Acheron." Acheron is a word taken from Greek mythology which means the River of Hades, or hell, as we would call it. She wants the witches to meet her there because she knows that Macbeth will come there to ask more questions about his future.

Secondly, she tells the witches to bring their "charms and everything beside," meaning their spells, cauldrons, and other objects associated with magic.

Hecate gives the witches these instructions because she intends to cast a spell that will produce illusions to trick Macbeth. This creates dramatic irony because we know that Macbeth will be tricked by Hecate, whereas Macbeth does not. He believes everything the witches tell him and has not considered that their prophecies might be works of fiction.

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blacksheepunite eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hecate is indeed angry, for the witches have "trade[d] and traffic[ed]" with Macbeth without including her. She considers him a "wayward son", self-serving and ungrateful. She wants the other witches to "make amends"--that is, to set things right. They are to work with her to set Macbeth up for failure, using his own hubris and his weak humanity against him. Hecate knows that humans, being mortal, crave security; therefore, she wants the witches help her manipulate Macbeth's emotions. She wants him to "spurn fate" and "scorn death", and, ultimately, place his own hopes above "wisdom, grace and fear." Which means she wants them to help her trick him into a false sense of security so that he will then make the fool-hardy mistakes that will bring about his undoing.

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chloemink eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hecate is upset because the other Witches did not consul her before they spoke to Macbeth. Hecate assures them she will conjure a spell that will lead Macbeth to a disastrous fate. She sends them to cast the spell and prepare the charm, as Macbeth plans to visit them soon.

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revolution | Student

Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft was furious with the witches and scolded them for meddling with the business of  Macbeth's usurp of the kingdom without consulting anything from her, and say that she would take over as superintendent over the mischief. She say that she would conjured up visions and spirits who would spread messages and false stories that would give him a lack of secrecy and security, and caught him unguarded, making him bewildered and confused, turning his life into a disastrous madness.