The supernatural was a popular element in many of the plays written in Shakespeare's time (including Hamlet) and everyone of Shakespeare's time found the supernatural fascinating. Even King James I took a special interest in supernatural and written a book, Daemonologie, on witchcraft. It must be remembered that, in Shakespeare's day, supernatural referred to things that were "above Nature"; things which existed, but not part of the normal human life and unexplainable. The play Macbeth involves many supernatural actions that act as a catalyst for suspense and thrill, insight into character, foreshadowing of future events as well as making connections with the theme.
In the opening scene of the play, the entrance of the three witches depicts the first presence of supernatural in Macbeth. The presence of the supernatural forces of the witches was accompanied by the dark, gloomy and thunderous ambience, perhaps functioning as a foreshadowing of future events that involves evil, wickedness and darkness. This is important as it gives the audience an idea of what might happen later in the play. For example, we see that later on in the play, Macbeth turned evil and wicked, killing an old and honourable King Duncan and a loyal friend, Banquo. I take particular note of the significance of darkness as it was later used by Macbeth when he calls upon the "seeling Night" (Act III. Scene ii. Line 46) which `makes clear vision impossible', as a way to cover up his evil deeds. Foreshadowing of `evilness' which is also a theme in the play is also created when the witches, before leaving the first scene, cried in unison that "Fair is foul and foul is fair" (Act I. Scene ii. Line 11). This line suggests and gives the audience a foreshadow that there is an urge to destroy whatever is good.
The witches' ability to prophesise - "look into the seeds of time" (Act I. Scene iii. Line 58) is also an element of supernatural. Later on in the play, we found Macbeth constantly relying on the witches' supernatural powers and their ability to call out the three apparitions, yet another symbol of the supernatural. Over here, the calling out of the apparitions as supernatural elements in the play could be intended to increase the thrill and suspense of the audience. At the same time, bear in mind that Shakespeare had the play performed for King James I, perhaps, the supernatural scenes on the witches is intended to cater to King James I's personal interest.
It is also noted that the presence of the witches' in every scene, is often accompanied by thunder and dark skies, as though Nature is disturbed and troubled by their presence and supernatural forces. The disorder and disturbance of Nature in the presence of the witches' supernatural forces could also reflect the disorder portrayed in the play as soon as the Great Chain of Being was violated when Macbeth murdered King Duncan and assumed the throne.
Terrible and peculiar incidents of the supernatural surfaced...