What are the witches planning at the beginning of Act I Scene 1 of Macbeth?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is difficult to know exactly what the witches are planning, but the audience can tell they are up to no good. They appear amid thunder and lightning, discussing a future meeting (which is all we know they are actually planning) after a great battle is over, sometime before the end of the day. They announce that they are to meet with Macbeth at this point, but the audience does not know, at least from this scene, who Macbeth is, why they want to meet with him, or what they plan to do with him. But it is clear from their appearance, the forbidding environment they appear in, and from their assertion that "fair is foul/foul is fair" that they do not mean well. This scene accomplishes several things. It alerts the audience that there are evil forces at work in Scotland, and later, along with the other scenes involving the witches, it raises the question of just who is responsible for Macbeth's foul deeds. Is he in command of his own actions, or is he led to them by the evil, conniving witches with their control of supernatural forces?