The witches are vital elements in Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', not just to make it successful in Jacobean times, but also to add depth and atmosphere to the play. They are the root of disorder and are the trigger factor for the chaos that unfolds throughout the play. Shakespeare considered their role very carefully and included them for important reasons.
In 1604, a year after he came to the English throne, James passed many laws on witchcraft, having shown much interest in the subject, to the extent of writing his own book seven years previously, entitled 'Daemonologie'. In this book he put forward his arguments in favour of belief in witchcraft and demonic possession, beliefs that were made evident through his involvement in a number of trials of alleged witches. 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. 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. Shakespeare creates an air of darkness, chaos and mysticism with his first stage direction of ''Thunder and lightening. Enter three witches. This is reiterated towards the end of...