Explain the Role Played by the Supernatural in Macbeth
The play begins with a supernatural scene, where the three witches meet and give many clues as to who they are or what they have control over,
“…We three meet again in thunder, lighting or in rain? When the battle’s lost and won….That will be ere the set of sun….There to meet with Macbeth.”
This scene sets the atmosphere for the rest of the play. If this scene was not there it would be difficult for the audience to understand how later scenes are linked or how these three women can tell Macbeth’s future. Also if elements of the supernatural were not used in Act 1 Scene 1, as they have been, the witches could not be shown as sinister and evil. These two elements of horror, “sinister” and “evil” would later be used to explain the cause of the three witches’ behaviour further on in the play.
As the play continues the supernatural is used more. Act 1 Scene 3 is Macbeth’s first meeting with the witches, and is also the first time the audience sees or experiences the witches’ supernatural abilities.
“All hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor, All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter”.
The witches predict Macbeth’s future and tell him that he shall become the Thane of Cawdor and then king. The rest of the play is based on this supernatural happening. After learning that Macbeth is to become King of Scotland the play follows Macbeth’s plot to get rid of King Duncan and then Macbeth’s life after the murder.
Macbeth is now Thane of Cawdor and has a strong belief in the witches’ predictions. King Duncan is to stay at Macbeth’s castle. Macbeth is overwhelmed to hear this and travels ahead of the King to warn his wife of King Duncan’s arrival the following day. Lady Macbeth is aware of Macbeth’s meeting with the witches and what they have said. She is more wanting of the royal title than her husband, and has deviously plotted to murder the King during his stay. Again the supernatural is bought in to once again attract the immediate attention of the audience. “ Is this a dagger I see before me”,
Macbeth has a vision of a dagger just before he is to murder the King. This surreal vision of the dagger is another example of the supernatural. This dagger encourages or “pushes” Macbeth to commit the crime. Although it is meant to encourage Macbeth to do the murder, it is at the same time, showing the audience that what Macbeth is about to do, although it being obvious, is evil. Shakespeare uses the supernatural to guide the audience to show what evil is. You begin to notice, as you read through the play, that supernatural is used in all places where evil is present.
Macbeth is now the King of Scotland since both of Duncan’s sons have fled the country in fear of their lives. The only obstacle in Macbeth’s path now is his close friend Banquo, because Banquo suspects Macbeth of Duncan’s murder since he was also present when the witches told of Macbeth’s Kingship,
“…I fear, thou play’st most foully for’t”.
Banquo tells Macbeth that he suspects him of the Kings murder, “…Thou play’st foully for’t”, Banquo is clearly suggesting that Macbeth has played foully to achieve his Kingship. Also, it is not only Macbeth who was given this, “supernatural soliciting”. The witches also predicted Banquo’s future,
“Thou shalt get Kings, though thou be none”
Banquo is told that he will not become a King but he shall be the father of many Kings. This is a problem for Macbeth because the only way Banquo’s children will become Kings is if the present King, Macbeth, dies and so Macbeth fears being murdered and being discovered to have murdered King Duncan. So he has Banquo murdered and on the same night invites him to a feast. Macbeth obviously does not expect Banquo to attend, but Banquo does attend as a ghost, and through the supernatural Shakespeare shows Macbeth’s fear and guilt. The King, Macbeth, is about to sit down at his table with his wife...
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