The Role of the Witches in Macbeth
In the play, Shakespeare used the witches to represent the
supernatural, evil, a destructive force and an inversion of natural
order. At the time the play was written, people believed this, and
feared witches. People believed that witches had the power to change
the weather and other special powers such as predicting the future and
the power of flight.
In Act 1 Scene 1 Shakespeare begins the play with the witches
discussing when they should next meet.
He does this because he wants the audience to be curious about the
witches, and what role they play.
We also see in this scene that the witches have the power to see into
In this scene we also see that the witches plan to meet with Macbeth
after a battle. This suggests that the witches have plans for Macbeth,
and makes the audience associate Macbeth with Evil.
When the witches meet, they meet in deserted desolate places with bad
weather such as thunder and lightning.
When the witches are deciding when to meet again, the enforce the idea
further that they are evil by asking, "When shall we meet again? In
thunder, lightning or in rain?" This also portrays the idea that that
the witches are powerful, and have the power to control the weather
which was believed at the time.
When the witches are talking, they speak in rhymes and riddles- "When
the hurly-burly's done, When the battles lost and one" which is used
to show that things have double meanings.
Also when the witches speak, the speak in a chant-like rhyme- "Fair is
foul, and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air."
The witches use rhyming couplets such as "Fair" which rhymes with
Also throughout the play opposites such as Light and Dark and Good and
Evil, are used to show contradicting forces.
In Act 1 Scene 2 Macbeth fought bravely against the strong force of
the Norwegian troops. When Duncan of Macbeth's bravery he confers on
him the brave title "Thane of Cawdor" after the previous Thane of
Cawdor was recently found a traitor.
Before this news reaches Macbeth, he meets the witches in Act 1 Scene
In this scene, the witches are portrayed as "Instruments of darkness."
In weather such as thunder, the witches are plotting to torment a sea
captain who's wife insulted them.
Banquo described the witches as unearthly, ugly and wild as they have
The witches make three predictions for Macbeth. They hail him as the
Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King hereafter.
They also prophecies that Banquo's descendants will be kings but he
himself will not.
The witches also make more predictions for banquo such as "Lesser than
Macbeth, and greater" and "Not so happy, yet much happier" meaning he