The Roll of the Witches in "Macbeth"

Essay by -BAABY- April 2007

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William Shakespeare builds a mystifying and ominous atmosphere in the opening scene of Macbeth, by integrating the three Weird Sisters to imply the evil that continuously lurks throughout the play. The witches are used as prophetic equivocations, made to entice human desire and manipulate human weakness in order to commence Macbeth's downfall.

The witches assume a prophetic role within the play. They give the audience hints as to the events that should occur, but they cannot control any characters or their actions. They tend to prey on human weakness and, for this reason, can easily recognize Macbeth's ambition. With this knowledge, manipulating his perseverance is almost effortless. All the witches do is reinforce the evil ideas that already linger within his mind. The witches' prophecy, "All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!" (I.i.53), assures him that he is to become king, which gives him the motivation to murder Duncan.

They do not tell him how he is to achieve the throne; all they do is reassure them that it is to happen. They also feed Macbeth promises of a future state, and later, while he fully relies on them, they decide to strip him of his good fortune when they feel he is ungrateful, made evident when Hecate says, "And which is worse, all you have done hath been but for a wayward son, spiteful and wrathful, who, as others do, love for his own ends, not for you." (III.v.10-13) They are vengeful, wicked creatures, and with their supernatural powers to influence fate, they are able to mislead Macbeth through more prophecies. With the help of equivocation, they reassure him when saying, "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth" (IV.i.91-92), but little does Macbeth know what their true intentions are, so he takes it the wrong way and obliviously...