Macbeth's Responsibility for His Own Fait in William Shakespeare's Play
Third time's a charm. The three wise men. Throughout history, the
number three has been connected to the supernatural. It is the number
of the trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). In Shakespeare's
Macbeth, the number three crops up as a religious reference, but also
as a perversion of the trinity to show how evil the witches, their
prophecies, and Macbeth all are. It also emphasizes the inherent
magic, or supernatural, influences within the play. The number three
is used to emphasize the supernatural influences and evil events that
abound in The Tragedy of Macbeth.
The three witches, know as the Weird Sisters, are one way Shakespeare
uses the number three to emphasize the supernatural. The audience is
introduced to the three witches in the opening scene.
"First Witch: When shall we three meet again?/ In thunder, lightning,
or in rain?" (Act 1 Scene 1 Lines 1-2). Opening with this scene and
the three witches sets the mood for the entire play. Shakespeare used
three witches rather than one or two to emphasize their supernatural
powers and their significance in the play. Their presence causes the
audience to be apprehensive from the very beginning. This scene
creates a very gloomy, downcast setting to the play. The lightning and
thunder also help to set the mood of the whole play. In one of the
following scenes, Macbeth encounters the witches for the first time,
and they tell him what his future holds.
"All hail, Macbethâ€¦Thane of Glamis...Thane of Cawdor...that shalt be
King hereafter!" (Act 1, Scene 3 Line 48-50)
The three witches are sometimes referred to as the "three fates". They
tell Macbeth exactly what his destiny holds for him. Not only are
their three witches, but their predictions for Macbeth also come in
threes. This scene is the turning point of Macbeth's career as a
general, as the three Weird sisters are now twisting his fate.
Act 4 Scene 1:
"Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff; Beware the thane of Fife.
Dismiss me. Enough."
Macbeth is told to be wary of Macduff. While this makes Macbeth
nervous, he feels he will be safe if he kills Macduff. The apparition
also speaks in threes: it says Macbeth's name three times.
"Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn The power of man, for
none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth."
This is an extremely important quote, because it misleads Macbeth into
thinking he is invincible and gives him a false sense of confidence.
Later on in the play we learn that Macduff was not of woman born -
Macduff was instead "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb (a
caesarean birth). Therefore Macduff is able to overthrow Macbeth.