Intentional imperfect speakers?

Is it intentional when the witches give Macbeth a false prophecy? The witches tell Macbeth that he will become the Thane of Cawdor and that he will be King someday but they do not specify how. “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor” “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” (1.3.47-48). I think this was done by the witches intentionally. I can’t help but wonder if this was them testing Macbeth. By leaving out how he was to one day become the king, they almost in a way leave it up to him to figure out how. What if Macbeth realized they were right because he became Thane of Cawdor and decided to wait and see how the next prophecy would come to pass? Would Macbeth have become king by means other than murder? While these thoughts run through my head I am hit with a sure thought that the witches knew what they were doing. They could have very easily told him how he would become king, but they chose not to. I think the moment the witches told Macbeth that he would become king one day, Duncan was dead. I think it was very intentional that they were “imperfect speakers” (1.3.68). Even in their prophecy to Banquo they gave more information than in their prophecy to Macbeth. They tell Banquo that he will be “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater”, including some foreshadowing to Macbeth’s evil deed (1.3.63). At first glance this might cause the reader to wonder how someone could be lesser and greater at the same time, but after Macbeth kills Duncan it becomes very clear. While Banquo is lesser than Macbeth in status, he is greater in character for he has not murdered someone in order to get ahead in life. The fact that the witches leave out the very important part of how Macbeth will become king shows that they knew exactly what he would do.

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One thought on “Intentional imperfect speakers?

  1. lauriegrl14

    Great post Cassie!
    I don’t think the witches gave Macbeth a false prophesy, I think they represent his past, his present, and his future. The first witch says, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis,” which in the past that was his title. The second witch replies, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor,” who Macbeth will soon become in the present moment, and the third witch adds, “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter,” prophesying his future as king. As fortune dwellers they can not tell him how he becomes king because it could change or alter Macbeth’s fate which they are not allowed to interfere in. It’s up to Macbeth to figure out, his destiny lies in his own bloody hands.

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