The Witches or Weird Sisters play a major role in the brilliant tragedy Macbeth by William Shakespeare. The role of the Weird Sisters represents that equivocal evil in the nature of things which helps to deceive the human will. They are not mere witches although they have some of the powers of witches. Even though they were produced by nature, they share with angels a freedom from limitation of space and time, a power to perceive the causes of things, and to see some distance into human minds (Kermode 1309). The Witches have malicious intentions and prophetic powers that entice Macbeth and captivate his mind. Although they have no power to compel Macbeth, the Witches appeal to Macbeth’s desires, eventually leading him to his tragic end.
The most obvious interpretation of the Witches is to see them as manifestations of evil in the world. They exist to tempt and torment people, to challenge their faith in themselves and their society. The Weird Sisters work on Macbeth by equivocation, that is, by ambiguous promises of some future state. These promises come true, but not in the way that the victim originally believed. The Witches have no power to compel belief, but they can obviously appeal strongly to an already existing inclination to force a person’s will onto events to shape the future to fit deepest desires (Corson 224-229).
At the beginning of Macbeth, there is no interpretation of the meaning of the storm. Dimly the audience is aware of the ongoing war, but Hecate creates an infernal trinity. Lightning, thunder, and rain all whirl into existence the three hideous curses upon humanity, the three Weird Sisters (Walker 146).
1Witch: “When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
2Witch: When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
3Witch: That will be ere the set of sun.
1Witch: Where the place?
2Witch: Upon the heath.
3Witch: There to meet with Macbeth.
1Witch: I come, Graymalkin
2Witch: Paddock calls
All: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”
Hover through the fog and filthy air.”(I.i.1-10).
These creepers of darkness that guide the Witches invoke the evil that eventually destroys Macbeth. Graymalkin, the night-seeing cat, the nameless toad under the cold stone, whisper to the Weird Sisters’ perversion of natural order: fair is foul, destroy it; foul is fair, nurture it (Walker 148). Only seconds later an echo of what the Witches said is merely repeated by the words of Macbeth: “So foul and fair a day I have not seen”(I.iii.38). The same epithets are used as in the last line of the Witches in scene one. It is intended that an unseen relationship has been established between the Witches and Macbeth’s soul (Corson 231).
Macbeth and Banquo notice the Witches simultaneously. The Witches inflame...