The Effectiveness of Act 1:3 of William Shakespeare's Macbeth
This is the first scene where we encounter Macbeth after he has been
talked of highly in the previous scenes. Since he is the title
character then his opening scene and first impression is of great
importance, and is therefore made dramatic and striking by
Shakespeare. The change in Macbeth's character during the scene is
fairly evident as he starts to become power hungry, and the struggle
between good and evil is soon present as he becomes more intrigued by
the witches' predictions. Banquo is used successfully by Shakespeare
to describe the change in Macbeth and the disturbing atmosphere
created by the witches. The scene is sinister and frightening
particularly for the suspicious Jacobean audiences because of the
witches' grotesque language and supernatural enchantments. The witches
are also closely connected to James I making them seem more real and
intimidating when performed on stage.
The ambience of this scene is very powerful although the appearances
of characters and the location are vague, giving a director many
options for the way it is staged. Therefore it can be performed in a
way that would suit audiences from all times that would suitably shock
and stimulate people of that particular era.
The setting for the scene is not illustrated in any great detail by
any of the characters meaning that staging it is completely open to
interpretation by directors:
"Upon this blasted heath"
This is the only reference of where the scene takes place, and this
gives a director many options. Even with little props the scene could
be made desolate and mystical by music in Jacobean times and in modern
times such devices as smoke machines.
The appearance of the witches is also uncertain, presenting endless
opportunities for their costume and features:
"So withered and wild in their attire,
They look not like th'inhabitants o'th'earth,
And yet are on't?"
Since very little spoken description is given of the witches there are
many ways they could be portrayed and have been portrayed by directors
of different periods. The only information that is given is that they
seem like creature from another place not earth because of their
outfits, but weather or not they look the same as humans is not
accounted for. Their age could be depicted as young or old or the
three being different ages, all of which would be effective at
different times. There clothing would probably be worn out and ragged
but could also be represented as rich and comfortable to give the
impression that "fair is foul".
In the middle of the scene the witches disappear just before Ross and
This highlights their powers to predict the future and gives the