William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tragic play that focuses on how one man is almost driven to the point of madness by a relentless drive for ambition. However, it is argued that his actions are heavily influenced by other means, most notably the witches. The play was written in the reign of James I who had published his own study of Demonology in 1597. It was clear that he had become utterly convinced about the reality of Witchcraft and its great danger to him. When Jacobean audiences heard the three witches talking it would’ve been far more terrifying due to societies tremendous anxiety of witchcraft. I think that that the Witches are some of the most powerful characters in the play. These witches possess devilish powers that set the tragic and Gothic atmosphere surrounding the drama. They acquire powers such as vision into the future, the ability to set the conditions for disaster, and the utilization of these abilities sets the movement of the play. However, their power is indirect, they can only manifest Macbeth’s own ambition . The witches only encourage Macbeth to kill the king, they cannot force him to do anything, only tempt him. It is disputed that Macbeth did everything by his own accord, through his greed and ambition.
It could be argued that the witches have power as they are able to establish the dark theme of the story whilst predicting future events, predicting the end of the war. They quickly reveal their relationship with many demonic forces. When Macbeth first sees the weird sisters they address him by three names “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to you, thane of Glamis. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to you, thane of Cawdor. All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” and also goes on to tell Banquo that his descendants will be kings even though he won’t become one. The witches use this previously announced fact “Hail to you, thane of Cawdor” as a catalyst, to trick him into believing that he will become king which makes him take action towards the prophecy, but which was really his free will making a choice. The witches prophecies are present throughout the play and reveal their accuracy, and Banquo takes notice and comments to Macbeth, “I dreamt last night of the three Weird Sisters. To you they have showed some truth,”. The witches’ prophecies place an underlying thought in Macbeth and Banquo’s minds and hide there throughout their actions with an ever-present influence. Macbeth is still troubled by the witches’ prophecies that foresaw that Banquo’s descendants will be kings “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.” In order to avoid this part of the prophecy he decides to have Banquo and his son Fleance murdered. The witches’ prophecy sets in motion the whole mysterious chain of events of the play. Macbeth allows the witches prophecy to lead to his demise by making him a deluded and paranoid, trying to control what he thinks is destiny by prophecy, but is actually his own thought process trying to make something untrue which was never true in the first place.
The appearance of the witches would have had a powerful effect on the Jacobean stage as Shakespeare aligns them to the stereotypical view of witches in these times. They are seen as stereotypical hags that are ‘withered’ and ‘wild’, unearthly beings ‘That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ Earth’ with ‘skinny lips’, chapped fingers and beards. These traits are associated with age and weakness. This implies that they cannot harm anything directly; they are just master manipulators that feed off ambition. The witches’ are also seen to commit many acts of petty, childlike revenge. In Shakespeare’s England, a practice such as this was known as ‘mischief following madness’, which was a very common charge against suspected witches. The audience during this time would’ve had a deep fear of these witches, and this scene would have intensified these fears that witches could bring harm to them in daily life. When they ask each other what they had been doing, one witch talks about how she plans to ‘thither sail’ and do horrible things to the husband of a woman who refused to share chestnuts with her.
The witches have a very strong effect on Macbeth’s character; they highly influence him in his accomplishments and awake his ambitions. They give Macbeth a false sense of security with their prophecies that are seen to be truth. Start paragraph here with a clear paragraph on Lady Macbeth influencing her husband more than the witches . However It is can also be argued that Lady Macbeth, is a part of it and is Macbeth’s greatest influencer. he has far more direct power of Macbeth than the witches do. She possesses the power to influence her husband’s decisions in a negative manner. She is stronger, more ruthless and more ambitious than Macbeth. When Macbeth refuses to kill Duncan , Lady Macbeth belittles him, questioning his manhood. ”When you durst do it” , ”then you are a man”. It can therefore be said that Macbeth’s ruin can be traced back to Lady Macbeth’s initial ambition and strength of character. The importance her influence has on his actions at the beginning of the play account for everything Macbeth does even after he carries out their initial plan.
In the play, the witches have a great effect on the play, most notably their psychological effect on Macbeth. They made it turn out the way it has, and they mainly created the story line, not by predicting exactly what would occur, but by pushing Macbeth to commit evil acts. It was all through witches repeatedly tricking Macbeth eventually leading to his demise, all because of the witches evil state of being and their desire to manipulate anyone they desire to.