Equality: The best of the worst, the worst of the best

 

            Macbeth begins with three witches who turn out to be prophets through out the play.  They already say they will talk with Macbeth after the battle even though, the reader has no idea that he is in battle let alone that he will survive.  The witches are a strong driving force in the play representing the evil motivation that is within all humans.  The witches’ next appearance is to tell Macbeth and his cohort Banquo about their future.  The men ponder if the witches are even women because of their beards and are scared of their physical presence alone.  Shakespeare is playing at the notion that the witches represent both male and female characteristics almost making them sexless.  Shakespeare throughout this play plays on the roles of women and men, but also roles of all people in general.  The witches tell Macbeth of his future role as king but also of Banquo’s children sitting at the throne.  Both of these prophecies are aimed towards both of their own personal greed and want.  The witches give these men an out into which to put purpose to their plans, more Macbeth than Banquo though.  But either way these witches almost inherently put these two men against each other for the fact that neither has the correct path to the throne so there must be wrong doing to achieve their goals.  Macbeth wonders that to himself but doesn’t really care either way.  This insight shows the reader what type of character Macbeth is how he will do anything to become King.  Shakespeare has Macbeth see Banquo later after another part of the Witches prophecy come true.  At this junction Banquo seems ready to discuss the interaction with the witches but Macbeth almost throws him away in fear of Banquo exposing Macbeths plans and desires.  He can’t even trust his fellow war hero who he just won a big battle with.  His ruthless ways will surely lead to his demise even though by the end of this reading we see he becomes king. 
In contrast to the evil raw human tendencies, which the witches represent, King Duncan represents all that is religious and holy.  His divine right to king and his want to live up to that makes him a strong moral character.  The play starts with a rebellion, which is inherently questioning the king’s power, but the people are wrong for the fact the he is divinely chosen.  Shakespeare compares the power of law to religion constantly and loves to have paradoxes in his characters to show the flaws in society’s thinking.  This is clear with lady Macbeth who literally asks god “to unsex” her.  She is also the one pushing Macbeth in his deed, almost being his backbone in the situation.  As he is faltering in his plan, Lady Macbeth is keen to make sure it works and even questions his manhood.  She shouldn’t be the one being the more aggressive strong character for women at that time, Shakespeare’s shows his insistence that everyone is equal in their own way.  Every character could almost be played by someone of the opposite sex or class. 
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3 thoughts on “Equality: The best of the worst, the worst of the best

  1. Ray Kelly

    The witches are very interesting characters since they are the ones who set all of the events in the play in motion. They set the mood of the play as very mysterious and connected to the paranormal. They were probably very funny to see when they were played by male characters. I can imagine three men with long beards dressed as witches doing their lines. They introduce temptation in Macbeth who seems to have been a perfectly faithful man before this, as seen through his valiant fighting against the rebellion. He almost turns his back on the prophecy, but then his wife mocks his manhood and pushes him over the line. She has a stronger lust for power then Macbeth. The King really seems to represent Macbeth killing his own innocence and accepting his fate as a power hungry psycho.

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  2. Megan Jordan

    You seem to have made a connection between the witches and Lady Macbeth without realizing. Your blog states that the witches are supposed to represent gender-ambiguous characters, and later it is stated that Lady Macbeth asks the gods to "unsex" her. This is a point that I would be interested in looking into more.

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  3. Emily MacBrien

    Sex and gender are such interesting dynamics in all of Shakespeare's plays. I think it is so interesting that he is so willing to blur the lines between gender and push what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior for both the male and female characters. Had the witches not possessed male characteristics, would their prophesy have been taken so seriously? Had Lady Macbeth not taken on traditionally male personality traits would her husband have felt her influence so strongly? Lady MacBeth mocks the manhood of her husband, something that is, at this time, a uniquely masculine way of behaving. At times in Shakespeare's plays we see such strong and self-motivated female characters, but it is always through a denial of their feminine traits that they gain this power and strength.

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