What is the significance of the first scene in Macbeth?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The first scene of Macbeth establishes the following:

  • establishes the theme of "time": "when shall we three meet again?"
  • establishes the importance of the "heath": a place of carnage, full of "foul and filthy air," foreshadowing the bloody events to come
  • establishes the witches as agents of chaos, seemingly controlling the actions and events of play much like a chorus
  • creates an atmosphere of the supernatural, mystery, and the occult
  • pathetic fallacy: the outside weather (stormy) mirrors the interior weather of the Macbeths (murderous)
  • the motif of "three": three witches, "thunder, lightning, rain"
  • the language of confusion in the witches' equivocations (language of confusion; ambiguity; double meanings; half-truths; paradoxes; riddles: “Foul is fair and fair is foul”)
  • subverts the natural order (God, King, and nature as all good) with equivocal morality: how do we know what’s good, or who’s good, if there’s overlap between good and evil?

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