The Influence of the Supernatural in William Shakespeare's Macbeth
Dramatic impact is the effect on the audience. 'Macbeth' is a play
designed to be performed for and to involve the audience. Dramatic
influence is the way supernatural has effect upon the characters in
In Shakespeare's time, most people believed in witches and witchcraft
and they were the objects of morbid and fevered fascination.
Persecution reached terrifying proportions. Between 1560 and 1602,
hundreds of people, mostly women, were convicted as witches and were
executed. Although some voices were raised against this superstitious
and barbarous persecution, most people had believed in witched. There
were hundreds of pamphlets describing the lurid details of witchcraft
trials printed. They enjoyed large and popular sales, which were the
equivalent to our popular newspapers today.
Witches were credited with diabolical powers. They could do things
like predicting the future, fly, bring on night in daytime, cause fogs
and kill animals. They cursed enemies with fatal wasting diseases and
induced nightmares and sterility, and could take demonic possession of
any individual they chose. Witches could raise evil spirits by
concocting a horrible brew with nauseating ingredients.
Macbeth may have been performed before King James in 1606. King James
was very keen on the topic of witches. He did many investigations of
witchcraft. A group of witched attempted to kill him once, but their
plot was discovered and was taken to trial.
There are many events in the play of Macbeth, showing much of dramatic
impact on the audience and dramatic influence acted upon the
The first stage direction is the first of dramatic impact right at the
opening of the play, this sudden impact creates a huge tension and
'Thunder and lightning. Enter the three witches..'
The three witches are entered with thunder and lightning, creating
tension and catching the attention of the audience. This sets into the
audience's mind that there is a link with the witches and lightning.
Thunder and lightning is used once again to open Act I Scene 3. As the
use of thunder and lightning had been done before, it becomes a signal
to the audience, making the audience realise that it is the entering
of the three witches. It also confirms into the audience's mind that
the witched are evil and bad.
The audience of Shakespeare's would have been familiar with the things
that the witches say as qualities or witchcraft and would have be
fascinated and become involved. The text below is a small sample of
what the witches say at the opening of the play:
'First Witch: When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
Second Witch: When the hurly-burly's done,
When the battle's...