Why did Shakespeare start Macbeth with the short scene of the witches?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare begins Macbeth with a very intriguing scene involving the three Witches. This scene immediately draws in the viewer, as the Witches speak in confusing words accompanied by lightning and thunder. Shakespeare's job as a playwright was to immediately set an interesting scene and plot that would compel the audience to stay for the rest of the drama, and so he brought in the three Witches with their electrifying words and presence.

In addition, Shakespeare's patron, King James I, was very interested in witchcraft, so Shakespeare's first scene was designed to appeal to his patron. The use of witchcraft and the supernatural were likely of great interest to many members of the public as well, as Macbeth was written during a time when many people believed in witches and their power. 

Finally, the scene sets up the importance of the supernatural in the play and conveys the idea that what is to come is not natural. After all, the drama involves regicide, or the killing of the king, and Shakespeare had to convey to his audience that killing the king was neither natural nor right.