December 11, 2012
Macbeth’s Weird Sisters
Although the weird sisters only appear in a few scenes throughout the entire play Macbeth, their role is imperative because they push Macbeth to murder King Duncan, seize the throne for himself, and eventually become the cause of his death.
There are very few scenes in Macbeth in which the witches appear, but when they do, the scenes are riddled with many important details. The fact that the play begins with the witches places emphasis upon their roles. "When shall we three meet again? / In thunder, lightning, or in rain?" (Shakespeare 1.1.1-2) says the first witch. Their entrance into the play is met with a storm which shows some magnitude of their evil powers and dark nature. They make plan to meet Macbeth and then agree to meet him at the “hearth” (Shakespeare 1.1.11-2) (which means moor). Although Shakespeare gives them power in Macbeth, he is very careful to limit the magnitude of it. This is due largely because of his audience when he wrote the play. King James was present when the play was first acted and it was a well known fact that the King had a fascination for the supernatural. He loved the supernatural so much that he even wrote a lengthy book on it titled Daemonologie. Shakespeare therefore had to make sure that, in order to keep face with the King, he must make sure the witches had powers similar to what King James believed (Mabillard). Their limits are shown when one of the witches says: “Though his bark cannot be lost, / Yet it shall be tempest-tost" (Shakespeare 1.3.24-5). Here they are talking about a sailor’s boat which one of the witches cannot destroy. By showing their limitations, Shakespeare instead bestows upon the witches other gifts which they use to their advantage. Shakespeare portrays them as very intelligent, instead of being powerful, and gives the reader a sense of foreshadowing that the witches want to use Macbeth. They seem to be able to sense his personality and strong ambition. Although Shakespeare does not tell his readers why, the witches seek to turn Macbeth’s ambition from fair to foul (B). The weird sisters also have no morals whatsoever as they appear throughout the play. In the first scene they say they will meet again “When the battle’s lost and won” (Shakespeare 1.1.4). When they say “and” and not “or” when they speak of the battle, it shows they do not care about the outcome of the war. They know the war will be lost and they show no emotion to suggest they care at all. However, the most obvious fact that they have no morals is their exiting couplet in the first scene: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair, /Hover through the fog and filthy air.” (Shakespeare 1.1.10-1). They speak of fair being foul and foul being fair; they find no difference between the two. Whatever the outcome, it all means the same to them. This shows that the business they plan with Macbeth cannot be good, and will be used solely for their unknown malicious purposes (Long).
The weird sisters begin their manipulating of Macbeth in Act 1, Scene 3, lines 48-50, as each takes a turn greeting him as he approaches them: “All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! / All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! / All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!” They foreshadow the fact that he will become Thane of Cawdor and then king. He is amazed by their prophecy and cannot rid himself of the thought of becoming king, though at this point he does not consider killing the current King Duncan (Zirinsky). He is content with the prophecy of Thane of Cawdor as he says: "If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me / Without my stir." (Shakespeare 1.3.157-9). However, his wife hears of the prophecy from a letter that Macbeth sent her speaking of his perplexity and amazement when the witch’s prophecy was fulfilled. His wife begins to dwell on the possibility of becoming Queen and...