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.