The Witches In Macbeth Supernatural Essays

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The Witches and Macbeth

The belief in the existence and power of witches was widely believed in Shakespeare's day, as demonstrated by the European witch craze, during which an estimated nine million women were put to death for being perceived as witches (The Burning Times). The practice of witchcraft was seen to subvert the established order of religion and society, and hence was not tolerated. Witch hunting was a respectable, moral, and highly intellectual pursuit through much of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries (Best ). The belief of the majority during the seventeenth century suggests that the witches are powerful figures who can exercise great power over Macbeth; however, strong arguments to the contrary…show more content…

in Best).

Although he is not made physically impotent, Lady Macbeth challenges her husband's manhood by being more aggressive than he is, taunting him, and suggesting, "When you durst do it, then you were a man"(1.7.55). Secondly, Lady Macbeth calls upon seemingly malevolent "...spirits/ That tend on mortal thoughts" (1.5.40-41) to aid her in her plot to overcome her husband's reluctance and to force him to kill Duncan. Although devotedly loyal, she rejects her subordinate role as wife and asks to be transformed "...into an instrument of death whose cruelty transcends the limitations of her sex and of her mortal nature" (Truax 368). Finally, the fact that she works with the Weird Sisters to influence Macbeth suggests that she is at least indirectly allied with them.

Not all of Shakespeare's contemporaries agreed with witch hunters. Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft suggests that although witches do exist, they do not possess the powers attributed to them but instead their claimed effects were coincidental and the will of God, and that those persecuted as witches were ill, foolish, deluded, or senile (qtd. in Best) . Johann Weyer similarly argued that those who were normally burned as witches had not actually made a pact with the devil but were suffering from some sort of illness (qtd. in Estes 456).

The audience's beliefs of whether or not the witches actually have power over Macbeth influence their

How Did The Supernatural Impacted Macbeth?

The supernatural reflected the atmosphere and the beliefs of Scotland and much of Europe in the sixteenth century. Macbeth is a story that is completely engulfed with supernatural elements. It is more a supernatural story than it is drama. Madness, mayhem and horror are all words that best describe this play. Three hideous witches, a floating dagger and apparitions are all supernatural elements that the reader finds in Macbeth. Most importantly, these elements are major causes of Macbeth’s path of ambition, murder madness and his ultimate downfall. As the story progresses we see the supernatural events change location starting from the witches cavern to Macbeth’s castle. All this shows that Macbeth is highly dependent and seduced by the supernatural.

The opening scene of Macbeth begins with the three witches meeting on the heath and describing the atmosphere, where Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (Act 1 scene 1). This implies that what appears good is bad and what appears bad is good. It also shows that witches will become a central figure in setting the tone of the play which “hovers through the fog and filthy air.” Throughout the story, the witches prophesy and foreshadow everything that will happen to Macbeth and what he will do. Macbeth will eventually come to them more and more to know what lies ahead for him in the future.

From a heath near the forest, the witches give prophesy and the reader clues in what destiny lies for Macbeth. It is the witches who tell him that he will be Thane of Cawdor and “shalt be King hereafter!” (Act 1 scene 3). Macbeth is shocked at this news considering the Thane of Cawdor is still alive at the time. This shows that Macbeth was not yet showing ambition or hunger for power but the witches had planted the seed that would lead to his eventual destruction. The witches also prophesy in this scene that Macbeth’s friend and comrade Banquo will have sons who will claim the throne after Macbeth and be “lesser than Macbeth and greater” (Act 1 scene 2). This gives the clue that Macbeth’s line might be short-lived and that once he is gone there will be no more of his descendants on the throne.

When Lady Macbeth learns of all this news through a letter sent by her husband, she immediately sees a promising future but fears her husband is “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness” (Act 1 scene 5) to destroy those who lie in his path to ultimate power. It is Lady Macbeth who really triggers the evil side of Macbeth. As the story progresses however, we see the tables turn as she becomes tormented by her own guilt while her husband kills without conscience.

We do not see the witches again until the end of Act 3 when their leader, Hecate, is angry with them for telling...

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