In order to judge why the witches are so important in the play ‘Macbeth’ ,by William Shakespeare, we need to consider many aspects. Aspects such as the witches’ part in the play; the language used both by the witches and others who describe them; the actions of the witches throughout the play ; the setting that Shakespeare chooses and the effect that the witches have on other characters, and not forgetting society at the time, all have to be considered . The way that the directors have chosen to present them also plays an important part in the play as here we have characters who are very different, unique and rather bizarre!
This is a play about Macbeth, initially a good and noble man… and his downfall. It is a play which encompasses tragedy, murder, cunning, guile, betrayal, madness, ambition, revenge, guilt, history, prophecy and the supernatural .
We also need to remember that this is also a play set in times (the early 1600s) which were very different to nowadays, set in times which were not technologically advanced and set in times when beliefs were quite different .These were times when people believed in witches!
In Shakespeare’s time, people often blamed disasters and misfortunes on witches and witchcraft. Witchcraft means the use of magical powers and the supernatural to control happenings. Because people could not explain odd happenings in any other way , they would blame witchcraft. When Shakespeare wrote this play, the king of England was King James 1. It is said that he was very afraid of witchcraft, so much so that he made a law in parliament stating :’Death to anyone practising witchcraft’. Many people also believed that witches were the devil’s helpers and thus Witch Hunts became very popular at this time. It is apt, therefore, that the play begins with the introduction of the witches, through which Shakespeare shows evil as a supernatural force.