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What Was The Witches' Role In Macbeth?

988 words - 4 pages

What was the witches' role in Mac Beth?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? Of course, once MacBeth, who, living in such a society, was superstitious, is presented with Cawdor's title, he believes that the other prediction, namely his kingship, must come true. Banquo notes the danger inherent in believing (and subsequently acting on) the witches' predictions; he says, 'Were such things here as we do speak about?/Or have we eaten on the insane root/That takes the reason prisoner?' Act I, scene 3, ll.83-85.MacBeth is quite overwhelmed when he hears that he is now the Thane of Cawdor. However, almost immediately, he starts thinking about how to bring about his rule as king.'{Aside} Two truths are told,As happy prologues to the swelling actOf the imperial theme.--I thank you, gentlemen.{Aside} This supernatural solicitingCannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill,Why hath it given me earnest of success,Commencing in a truth? I am the thane of Cawdor.If good, why do I yield to that suggestionWhose horrid image doth unfix my hairAnd make my seated heart knock at my ribs,Against the use of nature? Present fearsAre less than horrible imaginings;My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,Shakes so my single state of man that functionIs smothered in surmise; and nothing isBut what is not.' (1.3.127-141)MacBeth seems to be fantasizing about having a direct role in Duncan's downfall. 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 beWhat thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;It is too full o' the milk of human kindnessTo catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great;Art not without ambition, but withoutThe illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highlyThat 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...

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