Role Of Witches In Macbeth Essay

It is known that Macbeth was performed for James I and is assumed that the plot of the effect of witchcraft on the monarchy was devised to please the King, with James being said to have claimed to be a descendent of Banquo.Shakespeare would have been paid a large amount of money to have his play performed for King James, so it was in his interest to include a subject that the King was passionate about.

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However, the witches can bring about death as, if the man is unable to dock his boat, he will starve at sea or his boat will be swept onto rocks.

This is proved as, at the end of the witches’ conversation, the first witch produces ‘a pilot’s thumb’, which is that of the sailor, whose boat was ‘wreck’d as homeward he did come.

By the ‘bark’, she is referring to the boat, showing that there is a limit to the evil they can perform, as they are unable to destroy the man’s boat or life, but are simply able to interfere with the elements.

This shows that there is a limit to the damage and chaos they can cause and that there is a hope that good will prevail, as the witches are unable to destroy things.

The witches’ capabilities are shown in Act 1 Scene 3, when the ‘weird sisters’ are discussing the punishment inflicted on the husband of a ‘rump-fed ronyon’ who refused to give one of the witches some chestnuts.

The first witch has cursed the boat on which the husband is sailing so ‘it shall be tempest-tost.‘ Although the witches cannot directly bring about death, they can have a hand in the elements that cause it.The witches can only create the climate for evil, as man alone causes chaos by destroying order, as is proved further on in the play when, through the witches’ prophecies, Macbeth kills many of those around him.Shakespeare uses the witches to display on a small scale what will happen throughout the play.In many ways the sailor and his boat are representatives of Macbeth when he is ruling Scotland.Throughout the play, the witches—referred to as the “weird sisters” by many of the characters—lurk like dark thoughts and unconscious temptations to evil.In part, the mischief they cause stems from their supernatural powers, but mainly it is the result of their understanding of the weaknesses of their specific interlocutors—they play upon Macbeth’s ambition like puppeteers.For an audience living in the17th century, witchcraft and the forces of evil were very real, a part of their everyday lives, something that they had to come to terms with, making the play instantly popular and successful.Shakespeare uses the witches to instantly create an atmosphere of terror and evil, setting the theme of the play, which is the struggle between good and evil.At the end of his first meeting with them on the heath in Act 1 Scene 3, following line 78, the ‘witches vanish’.As Banquo likens them to bubbles in the earth or water, which can be seen but are nothing, Macbeth says that ‘what seem’d corporal melted as breath into the wind’.

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