Shakespeare altered the sources he used in constructing the play to cater to this deep and prevalent belief in the occult.
Act I[ edit ] The play opens amidst thunder and lightning, and the Three Witches decide that their next meeting shall be with Macbeth. In the following scene, a wounded sergeant reports to King Duncan of Scotland that his generals Macbeth, who is the Thane of Glamis, and Banquo have just defeated the allied forces of Norway and Ireland, who were led by the traitorous Macdonwald, and the Thane of Cawdor.
In the following scene, Macbeth and Banquo discuss the weather and their victory.
As they wander onto a heath, the Three Witches enter and greet them with prophecies. Though Banquo challenges them first, they address Macbeth, hailing him as "Thane of Glamis," "Thane of Cawdor," and that he shall "be King hereafter.
When Banquo asks of his own fortunes, the witches respond paradoxically, saying that he will be less than Macbeth, yet happier, less successful, yet more. He will father a line of kings though he himself will not be one.
While the two men wonder at these pronouncements, the witches vanish, and another thane, Ross, arrives and informs Macbeth of his newly bestowed title: The first prophecy is thus fulfilled, and Macbeth, previously sceptical, immediately begins to harbour ambitions of becoming king.
They will be defenceless as they will remember nothing.
Act II[ edit ] While Duncan is asleep, Macbeth stabs him, despite his doubts and a number of supernatural portents, including a hallucination of a bloody dagger. He is so shaken that Lady Macbeth has to take charge. Macbeth murders the guards to prevent them from professing their innocence, but claims he did so in a fit of anger over their misdeeds.
Act III[ edit ] Despite his success, Macbeth, also aware of this part of the prophecy, remains uneasy. Macbeth invites Banquo to a royal banquetwhere he discovers that Banquo and his young son, Fleance, will be riding out that night.
The assassins succeed in killing Banquo, but Fleance escapes. At a banquet, Macbeth invites his lords and Lady Macbeth to a night of drinking and merriment.
Macbeth raves fearfully, startling his guests, as the ghost is only visible to him. The others panic at the sight of Macbeth raging at an empty chair, until a desperate Lady Macbeth tells them that her husband is merely afflicted with a familiar and harmless malady.
The ghost departs and returns once more, causing the same riotous anger and fear in Macbeth. This time, Lady Macbeth tells the lords to leave, and they do so. First, they conjure an armoured head, which tells him to beware of Macduff IV.
Second, a bloody child tells him that no one born of a woman shall be able to harm him. Thirdly, a crowned child holding a tree states that Macbeth will be safe until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill.
Macbeth is relieved and feels secure because he knows that all men are born of women and forests cannot move. After the witches perform a mad dance and leave, Lennox enters and tells Macbeth that Macduff has fled to England. Act V[ edit ] Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth becomes racked with guilt from the crimes she and her husband have committed.
Suddenly, Lady Macbeth enters in a trance with a candle in her hand. Bemoaning the murders of Duncan, Lady Macduff, and Banquo, she tries to wash off imaginary bloodstains from her hands, all the while speaking of the terrible things she knows she pressed her husband to do.
She leaves, and the doctor and gentlewoman marvel at her descent into madness. Her belief that nothing can wash away the blood on her hands is an ironic reversal of her earlier claim to Macbeth that "[a] little water clears us of this deed" II.
While encamped in Birnam Wood, the soldiers are ordered to cut down and carry tree limbs to camouflage their numbers. Though he reflects on the brevity and meaninglessness of life, he nevertheless awaits the English and fortifies Dunsinane. The English forces overwhelm his army and castle. Macbeth boasts that he has no reason to fear Macduff, for he cannot be killed by any man born of woman.
Though he realises that he is doomed, he continues to fight.Thus, the witches' influence on Lady Macbeth only increases their effect on Macbeth himself—and, by extension, the entire plot of the play. The Macbeth witches provide the dynamism that has made " Macbeth " one of Shakespeare’s most . Enter the three Witches First Witch Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
Second Witch Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined. Third Witch Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time. Enter MACBETH. MACBETH How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What is't you do? ALL A deed without a name. MACBETH. Shakespeare has them speak in rhyming couplets throughout (their most famous line is probably “Double, double, toil and trouble, / Fire burn and cauldron bubble” in –11), which separates them from the other characters, who mostly speak in blank verse.
The witches’ words seem almost comical, like malevolent nursery rhymes. That’s just what Lady Macbeth does. After she hears of the witches’ prophecy, she addresses the powers of darkness directly, trying to make herself just like them. The witch’s body, however, was the last place to look for hot, free-flowing blood.
The body was hard, and desiccated by age. Oct 27, · Witches.
One of the most easily recognizable archetypes in literature, yet transmutable into so many varying forms. Old, young, wise, prophetic, repulsive, tempting, ugly, beautiful--for every one witch characteristic, there seems to be a corresponding opposite.
Macbeth’s three Witches are old and ugly hags, endowed with the gift of prophecy. The witches with Macbeth in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Macbeth performed at the Barbican Theatre, London.
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