Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Macbeth book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What powers do the three witches in Macbeth seem to possess? What do they prophesy will happen to Macbeth and Banquo? 

Expert Answers info

Heather Garey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write406 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and History

In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, the witches possess otherworldly knowledge. Upon meeting Macbeth for the first time, they know his name and his title, Thane of Glamis. They prophesy that Macbeth will become the Thane of Cawdor and then king. Further, they prophesy that Banquo will not sit upon the throne, but his descendants will.

The witches seem to possess many other powers in addition to prophecy. In act 1, scene 3, the first of the witches describes shape-shifting in order to exact revenge on a woman who would not give her any chestnuts. She threatens to torment the woman's husband. She knew where the husband was headed and what the name of his ship was, which again points to otherworldly knowledge, in addition to the power to change form.

A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,
And munched, and munched, and munched. "Give me,"
     quoth I.
"Aroint thee, witch!” the rump-fed runnion cries.
Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o' th' Tiger;
But in a sieve I’ll thither sail,
And...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 915 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write7,039 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write1,509 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial