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Witches In William Shakespeare's Macbeth Essay

1875 words - 8 pages

Witches in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

In 1606, William Shakespeare first performed the play Macbeth to James
I, King of the union between England and Scotland. The main reason
Shakespeare wrote Macbeth was to warn people of the consequences of
trying to harm the King, especially as this was one year after the Gun
Power Plot of 1605, where a group of Catholics tried to ill the King
by setting up lots of barrels full to the brim of gunpowder under the
houses of parliament during a speech by the King. Killing any monarch
was obviously a serious offence, but at the time of James I, The
'Chain of Being' existed, which was a belief that a process of
'natural selection' took place where the King was elected by God, and
no mortal is higher than he. The belief was the God created the
universe, he appointed the King as the Governor of these lands, then
the King appointed the nobility, then followed by the Clergy and
middle classes, and the peasants were at the bottom of the chain. To
upset the chain of being would cause chaos in the land, as the King
represented God on Earth. As Shakespeare's patron, James I would enjoy
the play because he could easily relate to the story, being a
descendant of King Duncan I of Scotland. Another reason for this is
James I's avid interest in Witchcraft, which plays a large part in the
play.

Witchcraft was a form of magic that was a belief in the Sixteenth
century, and it was a belief that Witches who could wield this magic
also existed. Witches were mostly women who were believed to possess
inhuman abilities including control of the weather and climate,
demonic possession of individuals, ability to fly, power to induce
nightmares using images within the individual's mind, they could raise
evil spirits, making images and objects appear and interact with the
individual, foresight, and power linguistic skills allowing them to
turn friends against each other. At the time of James I, the
executions of supposed Witches was at it's peak, with over 16 000
dying at the hands of witch catchers.

The Witches in Macbeth play a key role in entertaining James I,
because of his 'morbid fascination' with them. With Shakespeare's main
aim to impress the king, he would gain extra merit for touching on a
favoured subject of his.

When the witches first appear in Act One: Scene One, the atmosphere is
instantly set by a stage direction reading:

Thunder and Lighting. Enter three Witches.

This represents evil brewing, whether it be a rebellion being
concocted in a Kingdom, or 'strife in the minds of men, loosing abroad
the forces of evil'. It was said that the witches had the ability to
create tempests, so it could be that they could either sense the evil
around them, or more likely they created it to begin with. The thunder
and lighting is therefore used as...

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