Witches In Macbeth

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Topics: Macbeth
What Was the Witches' Role in Macbeth?

In Shakespeare's time, many people were superstitious; they believed that that their lives were strongly influenced, if not dictated by fate. They also thought that the world was full of supernatural creatures, such as witches, ghosts, and many other such beings. Shakespeare incorporated these aspects of belief in his play Mac Beth. The witches, although accurately predicting what would occur, i.e., Mac Beth would be king, they did not specify how their prophecies would be realized.

The witches did possess some sort of power (unless they were privy to some political information which MacBeth was not aware of), otherwise, how could they have known that MacBeth had been appointed Thane of Cawdor?
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He apparently believes that the only way to make the witches' predictions come about, is to act on his urges (although he attained the title of Cawdor without any extraneous effort).

A wife has a large influence on her husband's thinking. Lady MacBeth tries to persuade MacBeth to murder Duncan. Throughout Act I, scene 5, there are many speeches in which she tries to convince him. However, the monologue most relevant to my theme is Lady MacBeth's first speech:

"Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false, And yet wouldst wrongly win. Thou ‘ldst have, great Glamis, That which cries, "Thus thou must do, if thou have it"' And that which rather thou dost fear to do Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine
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This belief is what drives MacBeth and his wife during the first two acts of the play.
Although they feel that they need to make some effort, they do not seriously consider the possibility that the predictions would be realized without any effort- MacBeth might still be king without having to murder Duncan.

Towards the middle of the play, in act three, the witches meet with a goddess of evil, Hecate, who demands that they lead Mac Beth astray, so he will become arrogant, thinking that he is invincible. She says:

"How did you dare To trade and traffic with Macbeth In riddles and affairs of death; And I, the mistress of your charms The close contriver of all harms, Was never call'd to bear my part, Or show the glory of our art? And, which is worse, all you have done Hath been but for a wayward son, Spiteful and wrathful; who, as others

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