The Witches of Macbeth

   The play Macbeth tells the story of the Scottish lord Macbeth, his ambitions to gain more and more powers, and his subsequent actions to obtain it. The actions that Macbeth takes in order to get power is precipitated by his meeting with the three witches. While it is clear that Macbeth’s actions are his own, the fact is that the instigating event that leads to the truly bloody and ruthless actions is this meeting with the witches and their prophecies of his future glory that starts him on his path. What makes this meeting so instrumental in the subsequent events of the play is not so much the what that is said, but the how.
   Some of the most important events that occurs in this play are the ones in which the witches play a direct role in them. This is seen in the one of the earliest scenes of the play, 1.3, in which Macbeth first meets the witches and they then tell him of the his future. What makes this interaction even more interesting is the way that he is told that he will gain all of this power. This is seen in “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis. / All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor. / All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” (1.3.46-48). Here the witches tell Macbeth of the potential for power that he has, interestingly enough without actually telling him that he is going to have this power. The way that the witches tell Macbeth of his future glory is done in a way that is both very clear and also implicit as well. This is seen in the fact that by simply calling Macbeth all these titles that they show what he can accomplish and thus giving life into Macbeth’s already large ambition. The way that this is done also shifts the responsibility of Macbeth’s  later actions much more onto him, as the fact is that the witches never explicitly tell him to do anything but rather show him the path and let him walk it.This is something that occurs in all of his meetings with the witches, in a later meeting with them Macbeth is much more accepting of their prophecies. This is seen in “I conjure you by that which you profess, / howe’er you come to know it, answer me . . . answer me to what I ask.” (4.1.66-77). It is clear from this statement that almost immediately after Macbeth meets the witches again he wants their advice and prophecy to help him. This statement also shows that any compunction that Macbeth has of his actions in taking power is completely gone and that he is willing to do anything for it. This is seen in “Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn / the power of man, for none of woman born / shall harm Macbeth.” (4.1.9-97). This prophecy causes Macbeth to believe that he is truly invincible, something that will become all to apparent that is quite false and which eventually results in his death. This is yet another example of the way that vague prophecies are used in order to give Macbeth just enough rope to hang himself with.
   The play of Macbeth is about the character of Macbeth and his efforts to take power in Scotland by any means necessary. One of the most important aspects of this story is the way that his meetings with the witches is what begins him on his path of ruthless exploits. At the end of the day it is Macbeth’s own interpretation of the witches prophecies that leads him on his path to power and his downfall.

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One thought on “The Witches of Macbeth

  1. Ally Farzetta

    I completely agree with your post. Macbeth is definitely responsible for all of his despicable actions throughout the play–the witches simply watered a seed that was already deep within his human nature. Macbeth is the only one to blame for the occurrences that took place. I think Shakespeare made this evident in his inclusion of Banquo in 1.3. I think it's very important to note that the witches also prophesied about future success for Banquo–yet he barely paid it any mind. This proves that the witches are not to blame–they didn't cast a spell on Macbeth or force him to do anything (if this was the case, then it is likely that Banquo would have had the same fate). Banquo, unlike the innately evil Macbeth, did not have that seed within him for the witches to water.

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