The Role Of The Witches In Shakespeare’s Macbeth

1426 words - 6 pages

I found responding to the play ‘Macbeth’ difficult because of the era it was written in. Shakespeare wrote the play between 1603-1606 when attitudes were completely different to the attitudes of society today, in particular, widespread belief in witchcraft. In contrast to today, when not many people believe in such things. They used to be feared. They were considered evil, ugly and vindictive. They did not belong to this world, they were ‘supernatural’, with supernatural powers. In the play the witches plant ideas into Macbeth’s head, which affects his inner soul. He changes from an honourable soldier to a vindictive murderer. We are introduced to Macbeth in the beginning when he is ...view middle of the document...

The language of the witches is even more mysterious and cryptic, to reflect their mysterious and cryptic nature. In act 1, scene 1, the first witch says line 1 “When shall we three meet again? In thunder, light or in rain?” This is not the English that we use today and makes it difficult to understand. But it does have a poetic feel to it, which shows that Shakespeare was also a poet. This is reinforced because of words that he made up, for example “I come, Graymalkin!”. He tended to use rhyming words more with the witches to suggest that they have magical powers, which the other characters do not. In Act 1, scene 1 line 4 the witches will meet “when the battle’s lost and won”, demonstrating the ambiguity in their speech. The battle is going to be ‘lost’ and ‘won’ suggesting they have no affiliation to one side or the other, they are indifferent to the outcome and the subsequent loss of life. They are monsters!

The language that the main characters use is different from that of the witches and seems to show that they are upper class people. For example, in Act, scene 3, line 69 Macbeth says “Stay, you imperfect speakers. Tell me more”. This not only demonstrates Macbeth’s eloquent way of speaking but also that the witch’s speech is ‘imperfect’. They are not “normal”

Some of the words they use E.g. ‘thy’, ‘quoth I’ and ‘penthouse lid’, we don’t use today. The reason is because the English language is a ‘living language’ and has developed very fast. It has changed dramatically over the last 400 years. I think another reason that we don’t use these antiquated words is because they have developed into other words for example thy = your. One of the reasons people think Shakespeare was great writer is because he could create vivid images by using words and could adapt the language to suit the qualities of each character. He was such a good ‘wordsmith’.

People, at the time the play was written and performed, and at the time the play was set (11th century), thought of witches as evil with mystical powers. People lived in small rural communities and were much closer to nature. Nature was much more dangerous in those days: dangerous animals roamed the woods and climatic conditions had a greater impact. It was thought that they cast spells and mischievous trickery on normal innocent people so the people not did respond kindly to them. It was a crime to be a witch and was punishable by death. People were scared that witches would come and do the sort of thing that influenced Macbeth. This is one of the reasons people did not like them. The way they disappear at the end is very spooky. King James I wrote a book on witches. This shows how they affected society at the time and it also shows that Kings James had a big interest in witchcraft: it was very prominent during his reign. Shakespeare wrote the...

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