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The three witches in Macbeth are introduced right at the beginning of the play. This indicates to me that Shakespeare is trying to portray that they are a powerful force in the play from the start and that they play a major and influential role in the play. They tell Macbeth three prophecies. That Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor, Thane of Glamis and King. These prophecies introduce Macbeth to ideas of greatness. The three witches add an element of supernatural and prophecy to the play, and they each have a familiar, such as Graymalkin and Paddock. They are described as having beards but looking vaguely human. I believe they are inhuman creatures, neither man or woman, but ‘instruments of darkness.’ These three “secret, black, and midnight hags”, hardly distinguishable as humans, serve a huge dramatic part in the play. The role of the three weird sisters in the play is to generate imagery, mood, and atmosphere and to serve as the reason that will bring Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, to his downfall.
The witches can foretell the future, they add temptation, and influence Macbeth, but they cannot control his destiny. Macbeth creates his own misery when he is driven by his own sense of guilt. This causes him to become insecure as to the reasons for his actions, which in turn cause him to commit more murders. He constantly reveals his innermost thoughts. The witches offer great persuasion, but it is in the end, each individual’s decision to fall for the temptation, or to be strong enough to resist the witches captivation. Sometimes it is thought that the witches have the ability to reverse the natural order of things. When the witches tell him the vision, Macbeth is pleased with what he hears for he ‘Shall never be vanquished’ and ‘none of women born shall harm Macbeth.’ Macbeth’s mind is overridden by greed and ambition, he becomes more and more evil so he doesn’t think about what the prophecies truly meant. This shows that the witches are very influential once they have chosen their prey. Banquo is surprised that Macbeth isn’t ecstatic at the prophecy, and asks the witches why they have no prophecy for him. The witches make important predictions for Banquo, as lesser but greater, less happy but happier than Macbeth. They also say his children will become Kings. When Banquo says ‘The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, / And these are of them. Whither are they vanish’d?’ this to me means that Banquo is unsure whether these witches belong to the physical or the supernatural world. Banquo is cautious of the witches, because evil can sometimes seem tempting. ‘So foul and fair a day’, which are Macbeth’s first words in Act , Scene echo the witches’ last lines in Act , Scene .
The play begins on a dark, barren place in Scotland where the witches plan to meet after the battle, which we later find is a rebellion in Scotland, and to the witches, the outcome is known. When shall we three meet again? / In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”, says the first witch. They make plans to find Macbeth upon the Heath, and exit chanting “Fair is foul, and foul is fair / Hover through the fog and filthy air.” At the very beginning, the atmosphere that has been created is contributed to the effect of just the witches’ presence. However, the settings for the scenes help considerably to portray the darkness and gloom. In the following scene, it is in fact the given descriptions of the environment that create the first perception of evil [A desert place. Thunder and Lightning. Enter three witches.] The witches in the very first lines of the play foreshadowed all this imagery because the atmosphere is dark and evil. Because the witches show up at seemingly correct parts in accordance with the major events, these two lines confirm the setting and mood, which characterizes Macbeth. The first witch speaks the following lines “When shall we three meet again/ In thunder, lightning, or in rain.” The atmosphere is further expressed with the ending lines of the scene, with references to Paddock, a toad, which they worship, and the murky environment. These hideous images further make the atmosphere more revolting. “Paddock calls. � Anon! Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.”
In Act d, scene , in which the witches appear we see how their power is limited. One of the witches asks the sailor’s wife can she have a chestnut, but she refuses to give her a chestnut. Because she refuses, they make the sailors life hell when he’s out sailing on his boat, by creating massive wave storms. Although they do not have the power to kill him, they just cause him misery. In the film by Roman Polanski this scene is cut out. I think he does this because he wants the witches to seem like they are all powerful. If Polanski included this scene it would spoil the whole image he is trying to create of the witches and would show that the witches’ powers have a barrier.
When Lady Macbeth receives the news of the prophecies in Act d, Scene 5 in a letter from her husband, she is determined the prophecy of him becoming king will come true, but she is worried that Macbeth won’t have the guts to kill for the position. “They met me in the day of success and I have learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge.” This, in Macbeth’s letter to his wife, writes of the witches and has jumped to a conclusion; he doesn’t know for sure that the witches have supernatural knowledge. It’s true that moments after they hail Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor, Angus and Ross deliver the news that he has been named Thane of Cawdor, but that news wasn’t a secret. The witches could have picked it up before Angus and Ross showed up.
Macbeth’s ambition is deep within him and because of this, both the witches and Lady Macbeth are able to manipulate him to evil. It is this ambition that gets him into so much trouble initially. Macbeth is portrayed to have retained his own free will, given that his actions are inspired by Lady Macbeth. If the evil that Macbeth is going to commit cannot be directly carried out by the witches’ command over him, then how will he be compelled to murder Duncan and the many more that follow? Everyone is responsible for his own destiny. This is an important theme in this tragedy. Macbeth chooses to gamble with his soul and when he does this it is only him who chooses to lose it. He is responsible for anything he does and must take total liability for his actions. Macbeth is the one who made the final decision to carry out his actions. He made these final decisions and continued with the killings. I think the three witches, knowing of his ambitions, could persuade Macbeth to evil, but they could not compel him to it; by a vague representation of the foreseen future they could tempt him to choose an apparent before a real good. I don’t think the witches are of all power but like capitalizing on the weakness of others. Macbeth falls into this trap and someone else may have not been so weak. They enjoy preying on Macbeth because they like to exploit his weaknesses, like seeing him being destroyed and enjoy watching his high and mighty title collapsing in front of him.
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