Three Witches and Macbeth

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The opening scene in Macbeth is a compact exposition.
Everybody knows that a play is more restrained than a novel because it is written to be performed in less than three hrs. That is why it should attract the viewer and engage his or her attention from the beginning. That makes the opening scene of any play of such a great importance. The opening scene in a play acts as an expository scene that introduces the audience to the background of the play, its hero, and hints at the main theme. Shakespeare is one of the greatest dramatists who wrote the best expository scenes ever. They are known for their greatness and their capacity to attract the audience or the reader from the very beginning. One of Shakespeare's great opening scenes What is the importance of the opening scene of Macbeth and the two scenes in which Macbeth meets with the witches?  

The opening scene of Macbeth and the two scenes in which Macbeth meets with the witches are of great importance to the play.  Shakespeare uses these three ‘weird sisters’ to provide authenticity for the plays original audience and to stay faithful to contemporary Elizabethan beliefs.  He uses them throughout Macbeth as vehicles for his verse and imagery, they help him to deliver dramatic irony into the play and are used by Shakespeare to explore and define the main theme of Macbeth – the eternal struggle between good and evil.  When Macbeth is staged, the witches effectively provide dramatic tension and they are also the instigators of Banquo’s destiny.  The most important aspect of the witches characters is their role in Macbeth’s poignant downfall – is the full responsibility of Macbeth’s tragic fall from grace to be lain solely on the shoulders of the witches or do they simply act as catalysts?  By exploring the multi-faceted roles of the witches we are then able determine their importance and significance to the play and decide if Macbeth would have been as successful without them.  

In Act 1 Scene 1, the witches immediately transport us into the presence of evil with their queer rhyming couplets and incantations.  When the name Macbeth is associated with these ‘weird sisters’, it instantly elicits an air of forbodance on Macbeth’s character and as the play is self-titled, the theme of disaster is promptly set.  Before the prospect of being king is even spoken of and the malicious images that these prophecies provoke enter his mind, Macbeth is linked to the witches.  Firstly, in Act 1 Scene 3 where Macbeth sees the witches and claims, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen”, chillingly echoing the witch’s chants in the opening scene.  The fact that Macbeth is allied with the witches so early in the play proves that a flaw is already present in his character, thus complying with the formula of a Shakespearean tragic hero.  

During the Elizabethan time period in which Macbeth was written, witches were not simply considered to be a Halloween joke as they are today.  Instead, they were strongly believed to exist by all sections of the social hierarchy.  In the play, Shakespeare cleverly uses the witches to involve the audience, play to their superstitions and beliefs and gain their respect and support. Shakespeare bestowed his witches with the traditional, customary features that were expected of them.  In Act 1 Scene 1, the witches’ call to their familiars ‘Greymalkin’ and ‘Paddock’ – these were supposed demons that were believed to play a part in their immoral crimes.  In Act 1 Scene 3, the first witch is telling her fellow ‘weird sisters’ of how ‘A sailor’s wife had chestnuts’ and when she asked for some the woman replied ‘clear off!’  In the Elizabethan period it was assumed that if you refused a witch food she would punish you, and the audience’s beliefs are confirmed when the First Witch tells of how she will disrupt the seas where the woman’s husband sails and the fact that they can control the seas confirmed another theory that witches could control weather.  Finally,...
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