The witches presence is essential to the play Macbeth. It is these unnatural beings that tempt Macbeth with their prophecy. Though their malicious intentions are clear, they cannot be blamed for the actions Macbeth took later in the play. Simply because they appealed to Macbeth's desire to be king, baiting him but never instructing him to take any action. As with their admitted desire to create havoc by trapping him , they also included warnings in their prophecy about the consequences any actions could have ( Banquo's sons shall be kings). But Macbeth simply chooses to ignore their warnings.
Before the witches' first encounter with Macbeth they are portrayed as evil characters. The first witch speaks about the havoc she has been creating , her intentions to kill a woman's husband because she would not give the witch her chestnuts. This reveals to the audience the vengeful and evil nature of the witches. Shakespeare hints that any contact with these beings is dangerous.
The establishment of their evil nature also suggests that Shakespeare was creating alternative ways of judging Macbeth's actions. It is here that it becomes evident that the witches are the source of Macbeth's temptation. Even though Banquo is told his sons will be kings he does not give in to temptation, demonstrating that the witches' power is limited. The witches' ability to tempt Macbeth is an indication of his character not their power. Macbeth brought this fate onto himself, he always had a choice.
The witches set the tone for the play's theme. Their prophecies seem fair but turn out to be foul. "fair is foul and foul is fair" the theme of deceptive appearances that is established by the witches is continued throughout the play.
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