The Role of Witches in William Shakespeare's Macbeth
In Macbeth the witches make a huge contribution to the play and the
way it comes across to an audience. The witches portray many themes in
Macbeth, such as the theme of fate, and the way that they are supposed
to have the power of changing someone's fate, and the way they can
control people using their power. The witches also depict a theme of
pure evil, and the way they treat others in the play shows this.
Religion also is a big theme in Macbeth, references to the trinity,
whether it is the unholy, or the holy trinity. Also blasphemous and
sacrilegious beliefs appear often throughout the play. As well as
these themes, one of the biggest is the theme of motherhood, and
particular the distortion of motherhood. References to babies being
killed appear which only hints at the evil that the witches bring to
the play. The witches often speak about being able to change someone's
fate, and in the time which Shakespeare wrote Macbeth people had
strong beliefs about this as does Macbeth who speaks about fate often.
This also hints at the connections between the witches and Macbeth.
"Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel"
Here the captain is talking about Macbeth's victory over the
Norwegians. He uses the very significant phrase 'Disdaining Fortune'
This relates to Macbeth being able to defeat his fate, which is very
important because the witches are said to be able to change about
witches and the powers they were supposed to possess. James I, the
king in Shakespeare's time had a strong belief in witches and devoted
a lot of his spare time to the study of demonology. Obviously the
beliefs of a king would influence the beliefs of a nation greatly;
therefore this explains why witches were so feared in those times.
This is the first time that the witches are connected with Macbeth in
the play, and it is also the first time that the audience is informed
of a possible supernatural power that Macbeth could hold. It also
describes the way Macbeth beats even the fiercest opponents just by
using the power of his sword.
The witches obviously have a big impact on Macbeth throughout the
play, as you can see the change he undergoes, from being a savage
warrior, to a power hungry king.
"Till he unseamed him from the nave to the chaps"
This line describes Macbeth's brutal murder of a Norwegian he was
battling against. It shows again the close connection between the
brutality of Macbeth and the witches. This way of killing somebody is
very similar to the way a witch would go about killing someone, and it
is almost like a ritual killing, which not only links with the
witches, but also the theme of religion. It comes across as if Macbeth
is sacrificing the person he has killed for...