What is the purpose for Act 1 Scene 1 in Macbeth? Is it to establish the mood of the play, or is it to describe the setting?

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act I scene i of Macbeth establishes the mood, imagery, and themes of the play.  Here are some examples:

The Supernatural: the supernatural witches will juxtapose the natural (loyalty) and unnatural (murder) later in the play.

Imagery: connected to weather, women (gender), war (blood), and the number 3 (witches, "thunder, lightning, and rain")

Time (past v. present v. future): the play begins with a question: "When shall we three meet again?"  Do the witches foretell the future or do they simply comment what will inevitably happen?

Equivocations: the witches reveal the language of confusion; ambiguity; double meanings; half-truths; paradoxes; riddles

“Foul is fair and fair is foul”

Equivocal Morality: Are the witches good, neutral, or evil?  What's the difference?  How do we know what’s good, or who’s good, if there’s overlap between good and evil?

Pathetic Fallacy: the outside weather (storm) reveals and foreshadows the interior weather (mood) of the play and the Macbeths.  They are storming with ambition and cruelty.

akasha124 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The purpose is to set a dark and dramatic mood to the play.  This was especially important in Shakespeare's day because there obviously were no television trailers to tell the audience what to expect before going to the play.  Shakespeare wrote both comedy and tragedy so it was important to establish which one the audience was watching very quickly.

The witches also act to awaken Macbeth's ambitions.  In Macbeth the first scene is also indicative of the violent weather that always accompanies terrible acts in the play.  When the natural realm is disturbed, you know that the characters in the play are about to be disturbed too.

modmaster | Student

It to establish the mood. That is because through out the novel bloody things happen. Act 1 Scene 1 is where we learn about how various characters are happy about the bloody actions that take place. In the act of Duncan's murder, Macbeth is bloody again like he was in Act 1 Scene 1.

kquinn14 | Student


yshu143 | Student

de scene luks fragmentary,xtremely grotesque but very profound,opens wit n atmosphere dat suggests de strom in Mac n Dun life n de strom dat wud befall on Scotland.Darkness n uncertainity pervades de whole play n nature is foul 4m de beginin 2end.De tunder,lightinin n grotesque witches r forerunners 2de gloom.De horror is intensified wit a smatch of de supernatural power-de witches malevolence.de witches meet on de battle field n decide 2meet on de heath-evil bears a fine association wit barreness where no gud can thrive.dey r present in de scene 2exite de latent foul nature in mac n 2tempt him 2de career of evil.Dey provide n anthesis 2de divinely ordained order of de universe.de ugliness n evil dey embody pervades de whole play.dey set de  sombre mood of de play,dey also draw attention 2de tragic tone of de play.Dis scene Creates mystery n fear,prepares us 4de prediction;de witches lend 2highly dramatic element.It introcuces us 2de main hero of de play-Macwho dominated by a selfish ambition and an unqualified passion 2posses wats not his makes him de perfect target 4de witches.ders n immediate connection btw de tempter n de tempted.As mortals remain as mere puppets in de hands of destiny,de irony of life places Mac amid circumstances which r designed 4de triumph of evil n 4m which Mac can't extricate himself.diz scene also tells de reader dat ders a close relationship(affinity) btw Mac-witches b'cuz of de deep seated evil dats rooted in de heart of Mac.

The opening scene is highly significant b'cuz of the witches as they utter"fair is foul ,and foul is fair" that strikes the keynote of the play,it suggests the inversion or reversal of moral order wher throughout the play there is a complete detoriation of moral orders,for even the chief protagonist makes evil good.It suggests that villany thrives and goodness suffers! keynote is an equivocation is a fallacy caused by ambigouty


So it is basically to establish the mood of the play.........!

hey i have used a lot of short forms in the begining hope u could follow........

Hope this helped a little bit atleast :)