Shakespeares presentation of the witches in Macbeth
Shakespeares presentation of the witches in Macbeth

Shakespeares presentation of the witches in Macbeth

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  • Pages: 5 (2424 words)
  • Published: October 22, 2017
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Shakespeare was born in Stratford upon Avon, he married Anne Hathaway and had children, went to London and found work acting and writing plays and at the end of his life he returned to Stratford. His mother was Mary Arden, born of Robert Arden; a wealthy yeoman farmer.

Shakespeare wrote the play, “Macbeth” based loosely on eleventh-century Scotland. He wrote this play to please and entertain the King and he made it relevant to their lives by bringing ‘realism’ with the characters of the witches. He selected, altered and added to the story to achieve the greatest dramatic outcome.He invented Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking and suicide, Banquo’s ghost (and therefore the banquet scene), and most of the cauldron scenes.

He also changed the perception of Duncan from an ineffectual king into an old and revered ruler, and omitted Macbeths ten years of good rule. The play was first performed in the sixteenth century, during this time, witches were terrifying characters. People believed witches could speak with the devil, kill or maim people, fly, become invisible and could control the weather.Thousands of women were tortured and executed because they were accused of witchcraft.

This is why it is so significant that the production of Macbeth opens with thunder and lightening, and the entering of three witches; the audience at the time would have been petrified of them. The witches are portrayed in the play as gruesome, unpleasant and evil characters. Factors contributing to this are the deeply descriptive imagery they use; “liver of blaspheming Jew”, “fillet of a fenny snake”, while casting spells, which

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is so vivid that we can imagine before us this cauldron of animal remnants.Not only is the language used by the witches ugly, but also they are also ugly, being described as “filthy”, “withered”, “wild and bearded”, which is never a good look.

.. Although the director’s interpretation of the appearance of the witches alters from play to play, mostly they are associated with ugliness. The witches also show complete disregard for any social difference between woman and man; which would have been apparent at the time Shakespeare wrote the play.

Although socially we have overcome the difference between sexes and now witches are not generally feared, the grotesque language and ugliness of the witches allows them to remain feared and prominent characters today, even more so for those who still believe in the existence of witches. The play goes forth: Macbeth and Banquo, victorious Lords serving Duncan, King of Scotland, meet three witches who prophesy that Macbeth “shalt be King hereafter”. Lady Macbeth helps persuade her husband to murder Duncan while he is a guest at their castle. Malcolm, son and heir to Duncan, flees to England.

Macbeth, now King, has Banquo murdered, whose ghost subsequently appears to him at a banquet. When the witches warn Macbeth to “beware Macduff”, a nobleman who has gone to England, he has Macduff’s wife and children murdered. Macduff and Malcolm raise an army against Macbeth. Lady Macbeth dies, possibly through suicide. Macbeth is killed by Macduff and Malcolm is crowned King of Scotland.

The witches introduce the story which quickly establishes the mood

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and themes; such as good verses evil, of the play. It creates tension and drama at an early stage of the production, scaring the audience and capturing their attention.The fact the witches’ mention Macbeths name, “There to meet Macbeth”, links him with evil immediately, even before we have come across the character. The stage directions in Act One Scene One show an “open space”; which allows the audience’s imagination to run wild, while it remains a timeless and universal setting, and thunder and lightening. The thunder and lightening is representative of pathetic fallacy, because we associate thunder and lightening with evil, and it also introduces the thought that the witches can control the weather, as was thought about real witches during the period the play was produced.

This thought of the witches controlling the weather is compounded in Act One Scene Three, when the witches devise wind so that they may get revenge upon a sailor’s wife. This scene also emphasises the vindictive and unpleasant nature of the witches, using phrases like, “killing swine,” “I’ll drain him dry as hay,” and “here I have a pilot’s thumb. ” During the casting of the spell there is a “drum within”, which creates a feeling of tension and anticipation. This scene in set in “a heath”, which is once again vague, similar to the “open space”, also similar, is the present “thunder”.At the end of this scene the “witches vanish” which draws our attention to their supernatural powers and adds suspense.

The key characteristic of Macbeth’s witches is that while they can influence Macbeth’s actions, they cannot compel him to commit the evil deeds that he undertakes in the course of the Scottish tragedy. This limitation on the power of the weird sisters, their dependency upon human will to work their black arts, is highlighted by the difference between Banquo’s reaction to their initial predictions and that of Macbeth.After their encounter with the witches in Act One Scene Three, Banquo wonders aloud about whether they were real or whether he and Macbeth are suffering from some type of hallucination: “Were such things here as we do speak about? /Or have we eaten on the insane root/That takes the reason prisoner? “. It is not Macbeth, but Banquo, who first notices the witches on the heath, asking Macbeth: “What are these/So withered and so wild in their attire/That look not like th’ inhabitants of the earth/And yet are on’t”.Banquo then asks the witches directly whether they “live or are “aught” and Macbeth demands further, “Speak, if you can, what are you? “.

They do not respond to these questions, but simply hail Macbeth, first as Thane of Glamis, then as Thane of Cawdor, and finally as “King hereafter. ” When Banquo asks that witches if they can foretell future, they hail him as a future sire of Scottish monarchs, and when Macbeth then asks the witches to explain their salutations and the means by which foresee future, they vanish into thin air.Banquo ultimately concludes that the witches are not a hallucination, nor are they of substance, explaining to Macbeth that, “the earth hath bubbles,

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