What is Macbeth's attitude towards the witches in Act 4, scene i and what are the reactions of the witches to it?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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lit24 | Student

To begin with, Macbeth in this scene addresses the witches arrogantly and contemptuously orders them in the following words:

"How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What is't you do?"

The witches however are confident of their evil prowess and answer indifferently,"A deed without a name." They then cunningly trap and  mislead Macbeth  to his final destruction by conjuring for his  benefit the three "apparitions" which serve only to make him initially complacent but finally to burn with jealousy when he realises that he will die childless and Banquo's children will become kings, "Thy crown does sear mine eye-balls."

By the end of the scene, Macbeth's arrogance has evaporated and he is completely depressed compelling the witches to mockingly remark,

"but why
Stands Macbeth thus amazedly?
Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites,
And show the best of our delights:
I'll charm the air to give a sound,
While you perform your antic round:
That this great king may kindly say,
Our duties did his welcome pay."

The scene reveals a kaledioscope of Macbeth's attitudes towards the witches: contemptuous arrogance to false hope and bravado to burning jealousy to final dissillusionment,

"Infected be the air whereon they ride;
And damn'd all those that trust them!"

The witches on the contrary are supremely confident of their evil supernatural powers and know fully well that Macbeth is fully under their control and toy with his feelings and emotions, "Show his eyes, and grieve his heart."