In this essay I shall be looking at the way evil is portrayed in Shakespeare's play, Macbeth. I will be concentrating on the characters in the play that contribute to the evil themes of the play. It is clear from the start of the play that the witches are the main source of evil.
The witches have an enormous effect on the play, not only are they evil, but this is emphasised by the strong feelings against witches and witchcraft in Elizabethan times. Convicted witches were regularly tortured and even executed. Most people believed in witches and there was little opposition against this persecution. This was not helped by the fact that the king, James 1 was also interested in this superstition, often, he interrogated the accused himself.
It is clear from the start of the play that the witches play a key role. The first scene is the witches planning to meet Macbeth. The setting of this scene is very important; they meet on a moor in thunder and lightning. These surroundings portray an evil image; the moor is a very lonely, barren and bleak place, while thunder and lightning associate with evil. So even at the beginning of the play one of the themes is known.
The witches' language includes rhyming couplets that contradict each other and are very powerful.
"Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air"
This quote tells us about the witches' hatred for all things good, and their love for things that are evil. Shakespeare adds rhyme and rhythm to the witches' language to emphasise their evilness. The second part of this quote adds to their image of being witches and would have created tension among Elizabethan audiences. The image of old women with cats and the ability to fly would have shocked an audience.
The first meeting between Macbeth and the witches is significant as they make two predictions to Macbeth, "Hail to thee thane of Cawdor" and perhaps more significantly, "That shalt be king...