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Portrayal Of The Supernatural In Macbeth

813 words - 4 pages

A modern audience has a lot in common with a Jacobean audience. We all want, or wanted I suppose, to watch an interesting story that can hold our interest for a few hours and maybe inspire a few laughs or a little philosophical thought if we are up for it. For a play to do this, it is important that it feels relevant to us as a viewer
You could say that belief in the supernatural has gone out of vogue. Although there are many who still hold that there might be “more things in Heaven and Earth” than we can readily observe in our universe—whether those things be literal ghosts or a simple refusal to say the name of a play while in a theatre—modern popular belief is following a clear trend towards science above magic. It is true this trend can be traced back to the Renaissance and further, but while the idea that pixies might be responsible for spoiling the milk began to fade, the notion of witches and witchcraft remained firmly, darkly rooted in the minds of all classes; even King James I was known for his fear of witches, a subject on which he wrote a book, and during his reign witch hunts grew rampant across the British Isles, throughout Europe, and over the sea to America. Those contemporary thoughts had a clear influence on Shakespeare’s portrayal of the witches in Macbeth. In earlier versions of the Macbeth story, they were known as “nymphs” or “fairies”, two ideas with very different connotations than the hag-like creatures in the play. Fairies may have been good enough for a comedy like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, causing trouble and dancing about, but to pull a story to the depths that Macbeth goes, Shakespeare needed something dark, gritty, and current for peak dramatic impact. While, to most, the idea of witchcraft today seems silly and outdated, for much of Shakespeare’s audience it was a very real thing and it would not have been too difficult to sculpt a believable witch for the audience to fear, because the fear was already real. Give her some warts, a cauldron, and maybe a broomstick, and suddenly they are brought to images of a story they heard about a cousin of a cousin who knew a guy who lost his crop and son within a year, and all because of a witch. This would not make the witches easy roles, but instead allowed the...

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