The Supernatural

The first thing that stood out to me while reading was the obvious element of the supernatural, which hadn’t been present in the other Shakespeare plays we’ve read. As I continued reading, I asked myself why is this? What is the purpose? I feel that adding a supernatural element serves to downplay the power of man. It emphasizes the element of uncertainty that man truly has in the face of Fate.

 The witches are the most blatant embodiment of the supernatural. They control nature and the order of things –two factors that man spends much of his time abiding by (as we’ve seen in previous works). The presence of the witches not only defies the omnipotent power of nature, but challenges the idea that Fate is predetermined. For example, the First Witch states, “A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,/ and munched, and munched, and munched, “Give me,”/ quoth I./ “Aroint thee, witch!” the rump-fed runnion cries” (1.3. 3-6). These lines reveal that the First Witch encountered a woman who did not comply to her simple hunger craving, so she will now curse her husband for revenge. The witches seem to be making it up as they go. In the first scene of the play, they are undecided about where to meet later on, until one suggests and open field where they would cross paths with Macbeth. There doesn’t seem to be a reason to meet him specifically; it seems like a spur of the moment decision. The supernatural seems to be toying with the order of the natural world just for the hell of it. The witches make quick appearances (such as to Macbeth and Banquo), dropping vague information. Then then vanish as soon as the human characters wants answers. They serve as an interference and distraction to the natural order of the world, maybe even as a test to weed out the good and bad people. Banquo touches on this idea when he says that devils tell half-truths to “win us to our harm” (1.3.121). It seems that the witches intentionally cause confusion.

Even their indistinguishable gender, which the men question, challenges traditional elements of nature. The witches seems to span both genders because they have beards and lack feminine features. This issue of gender is unsettling to Banquo and Macbeth, causing them to question an element of nature that is usually fixed and stable. Macbeth and Banquo’s power is threatened in the presence of the witches because they cause confusion and offer insight that does not fit into conventional society. The fact that there is a presence that can manipulate Fate is bound to cause destruction later on.

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4 thoughts on “The Supernatural

  1. Nicole Wissler

    I really liked that you touched upon the supernatural element of this play. I too noticed that it was the first time we had come across supernatural powers in the plays we have read. I like the idea that you use about this being a way for Shakespeare to say that man is not as strong or in control as he may think and that life may not be as predetermined as humans may have thought. I love the addition of the witches because they bring the element of surprise and a foreshadowing affect to the play. They are cryptic in what they say and it is up to the characters to bring us to that fortune made, however possible.I believe that there is the big picture, which is the fortune that the witches make and then there are several path ways to take to get there. It is all determined by the characters emotions and personality traits to get to the end point of the fortune. Each character may interrupt the fortune in a different way and either good or evil way of achieving it. I think Shakespeare is saying here that life can change at any time. It is determined by the conversations we have and the expectations that others put on us. Everything that we encounter in our lives is to direct us on a certain path. I also think that the witches are in the play to be the game makers so to speak. They control the whole play by putting ideas into the characters heads. I think that they enjoy this aspect to control the lives of people and watch them play out. Almost like they are entertaining themselves because the people without powers are so gullible and will believe anything that they say. This also surprises me that they will believe anything that the witches say because they have powers. I feel that because they are supposed to lead their lives from God's words and what the king says how is it possible that they would even listen to the witches? I think that Shakespeare says a lot by having the witches in the play and the fact that Macbeth listens to them. I think that it says a lot about how greed plays out in these characters. People are so willing to become king that they would do just about anything to defy all that know is right to get it.

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  2. Timothy

    I agree with a lot of what you said about the presence of the supernatural in the play and how it downplays the responsibility of man in the actions of things. That being said, I found that the witches were more personifications of nature than manipulators of it. I found this specifically in the way that they interact act with other people.

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  3. Steph Cryan

    I agree that the Witches are definitely a driving force of the play that challenges the force of men which we do often see driving Shakespeare's plays instead. They do seem to bother the men because they are unnatural in more than one way (both in gender as you suggest but also in nature because they push fate along perhaps faster than we expect). However, at the same time, it's important to note that it is still the men that drive the play, the witches say Macbeth will be king,but don't mention how. It's Macbeth and his wife who describe how. So perhaps it isn't just magic and the witches pushing it forward, but still the traditional will of men that we see in other plays.

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  4. Dylan Gerety

    I'm glad the supernatural is highlighted here. The mere presence of these elements in a Shakespearean tragedy makes it different from everything we have read so far. The supernatural might be responsible or at least is in tune with the inversions that are throughout this play, the role reversal of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the constant paradoxical language and the knowledge of one's fate which breeches natural order are all possibly results of the supernatural in this play.

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