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The supernatural in Macbeth

By lozzielozlozloz Feb 06, 2014 901 Words
Macbeth was written in the 1600s for the new king, James 1. The play was written with the King’s interests in mind. It echoes his fascination with the supernatural, especially witchcraft. Macbeth was therefore written to please the King’s interests.

We are first introduced to the supernatural in the opening scene of the play. This scene is extremely brief which helps to create a sense of mystery and wonder. In this scene Shakespeare presents three witches meeting in the middle of a violent storm. Their riddling rhymes show that they use supernatural powers and that they are inhuman. Shakespeare also heightens the atmosphere by the first word that he uses: ‘When’ – a question. From this other questions quickly follow. When the witches say that the air is ‘filthy’ this suggests that dark deeds are about to happen. The theme of the supernatural has already been set within the first scene of the play. The witches, as Shakespeare presents them, are ambiguous creatures. The fact that they are evil is shown in the final couplet: ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’. Meaning good is bad and bad is good. Therfore from the very start of the play the witches are violating God’s natural order, showing that they are supernatural beings.

The witches are an evil supernatural force. They have the ability to predict the future and cast spells. This gives them a power over humans. However, when they are planning to harm the sea captain in Act 1 Scene 3, they say that his ship ‘cannot be lost’, which indicates that their powers are limiter. They tend to drive the action of the play. If there were no witches then it would’ve been unlikely that Macbeth would have committed such terrible crimes, as he wouldn’t have been under the witches’ influence.

In the play Shakespeare has associated the witches with chaos. This is because they try to impose an unnatural order on what’s good and bad. Macbeth says that the witches ‘untie the winds’. The witches are motivated by destruction instead of goodness. They represent the struggle between good and evil. Shakespeare presents the witches as completely evil. They are cruel, inhuman and celebrate the devil. The supernatural elements add to the atmosphere of the play as well. They make the play more mysterious. Shakespeare also hints at what’s real and what’s not. This adds to the drama.

The witches make many prophecies throughout the play but they do not say how they will happen. They are very vague when they prophesise. This means that the witches can take advantage of Macbeth’s weakness, his vaulting ambition, and use it to control his actions. Many of the prophecies that the witches make are self-fulfilling. Meaning that Macbeth has to make them come true. For example, the witches tell Macbeth that he will become king, but they do not tell him to kill Duncan. The witches trick Macbeth by making predictions that give him a false sense of security. These predictions indirectly lead to his death.

The witches are not the only supernatural beings in the play. When Macbeth is talking to himself at the beginning of Act Two, he is talking about ‘witchcraft’, ‘Hecate’s offerings’ and ‘a ghost’. This links Macbeth to the witches and therefore the supernatural. This scene also shows how he is affected by their predictions. He starts seeing visions of a dagger. Shakespeare has not made it clear if the dagger is leading Macbeth to commit murder or if it is warning him against it.

In Act Three, Macbeth sees the ghost of his late friend Banquo, who he had ordered to be murdered. Banquo’s ghost appears once Macbeth receices the news about Banquo’s death and Fleance’s escape. When Macbeth says Banquo’s name, his ghost appears. This suggests that it is a guilt-inspired hallucination. It is very similar to the ghostly dagger that Macbeth saw before Duncan’s murder. This ghost suggests to Macbeth that even in death, he will not be able to rest. It is a symptom of guilt and anxiety. The ghost is also an important dramatic device in the performance of the play. This is because only Macbeth can see the ghost and the audience can’t. This scene shows us that Shakespeare is trying to move the supernatural theme away from the witches and begin to focus on other forms of supernatural activity. In this scene it focuses on ghosts.

Visions are supernatural signs of guilt. During Act Five, Lady Macbeth is driven mad as she imagines that her hands will ‘ne’er be clean’ of Duncan’s blood. Her guilt is so great that she commits suicide. The vision is cryptic and fills her with fear. The language that she uses is desperate, ‘O, o, o!’ and shows that she is disturbed by the vision of blood on her hands. The Doctor says that her heart is ‘sorely charged’. He sees that the vision is the result of her guilty conscience.

Throughout the play Shakespeare gradually adds more and more supernatural elements to the theme. He starts off with the most obvious (the witches), this keeps the audience intrigued as to what happens next. As the play follows Macbeth to his complete destruction and loss of integrity, the supernatural is very crucial as it is the reason behind Macbeth’s destruction.

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