Analyzing the Role of the Three Witches in Macbeth
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Analyzing The Role of The Three Witches in Macbeth
Shakespeare’s works have been referred to as some of the greatest ever. It is mostly his metaphors and symbols that grab the reader’s attention and force him to engage in each of his works. Macbeth, originally published in 1606, is a prime example of the captivating plays written by Shakespeare, involving complex points and sophisticated characters. In the play, the main character, Macbeth, is introduced after defeating Irish and Norwegian armies in a gruesome and bloody war. Still a young hero, he is approached by three magical witches who tell him he will be Thane of Cawdor and King thereafter. To Macbeth’s surprise, he is later approached by the King of Scotlan,d who tells him the previous Thane committed treason against his own country, allowing for Macbeth to replace him. The witches add a supernatural element to the play, and introduce the reader to the theme of deception. The famous line “Fair is foul and foul is fair,” for example, challenges the reader to not accept people and events at face value, setting the tone of the play.
Macbeth’s first encounter with the witches is vital to his developing lust for power. The tone is a dark and mysterious one from the beginning, and Macbeth is too intrigued by the witches to realize their malevolent intentions. After becoming Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth begins his path of destruction fueled by his new greed for power, which was all sparked by three bearded witches who speak in rhymes. This new “fate” that the witches give Macbeth manifests in him being out of control of his own actions, and the witches manipulate Macbeth for the worst. Banquo, Macbeth’s partner foreshadows future events by telling Macbeth he does not feel right about the encounter with the Witches, and that great misfortune may come from the encounter. He says, “But ’tis strange. And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence.” Shakespeare uses the witches to represent a struggle between the supernatural and natural world that plagues Macbeth’s mind throughout. While Macbeth controls his actions, it is the original prophecy of the witches that begins the madness.
At the end of the first act we are introduced to Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s wife. Shakespeare uses her as another way into Macbeth’s head. Because of his deep love for her, he listens to her and takes her advice, once again losing control over his actions. Macbeth informs his wife on the prophecy of the witches and his encounter with the King, and she is immediately provoked by the possibility of great power to her and Macbeth. She tells him it seems both fate and witchcraft want him to be king but does not consider the witches intentions. She is in no way a positive influence on Macbeth as she constantly fills his head with ideas of murder and treason as a pathway to the throne. She is also successful when Macbeth begins talking to himself, worried about his consuming thoughts such as “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature? Present fears Are less than horrible imaginings”. Here the reader can see the beginning of the end of Macbeth’s sanity it is evident tell he is already thinking about bloodshed as a way to kingship.
Macbeth tells his wife he cannot kill the King as he has been humble and free of corruption and simply does not deserve it to which his wife calls him a coward and unable to fight for what he so desperately wants. Some positive light can be shown on this part of the play due to the fact that Macbeth begins to realize this is not the answer but quickly changes mood when he is challenged by his wife, something he does not back down from. They quickly formulate a plan to kill Duncan so Macbeth can be the new King of Scotland. This is the first instance of Macbeth spilling blood during the play. The three witches are constantly in the back of Macbeth’s mind and Shakespeare does a good job of allowing the witches to guide Macbeth to his actions but do not explicitly make him do it. They open his eyes to the possibility of the idea that he can be more than the Thane of Cawdor and this idea plays a powerful role in the influence of the witches on Macbeth as well as on his wife.
Banquo begins to suspect that Macbeth may have something to do with this mostly because he was with Macbeth to hear the first prophecies made for them. This leads Macbeth to think back about what the witches said about Banquo’s sons being Kings of Scotland and sends him into a frenzy, impulsively hiring two murderers to kill Banquo and his son threatening his reign. The murderers manage to kill Banquo, but his son Fleance escapes, giving Macbeth another bloody murder to think about. Motivated by the witches, the prophecies are making Macbeth