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Discuss the Role of the Witches in Macbeth

Discuss the Role of the Witches in Macbeth
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  Discuss the Role of the Witches in  Macbeth . The srcin of the three witches  or Weird Sisters  of  Macbeth  lies in  Holinshed's Chronicles.  Other possible sources influencing their creation aside from Shakespeare's own imagination include British folklore, contemporary treatises on witchcraft including King James I and VI's Daemonologie, Scandinavian legends, and ancient classical Greek and Roman myths concerning the Fates. Portions of Thomas Middleton's play The Witch  were incorporated into  Macbeth . During Shakespeare's day, witches were seen as worse than rebels. The Three Witches represent darkness, chaos, and conflict, while their role is as agents and witnesses. Their presence communicates treason and impending doom. Much of the confusion that springs from them comes from their ability to straddle the play's borders between reality and the supernatural. They are so deeply entrenched in both worlds that it is unclear whether they control fate, or whether they are merely its agents. They defy logic, not being subject to the rules of the real world. The witches' lines in the first act: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air" are often said to set the tone for the remainder of the play by establishing a sense of moral confusion. Indeed, the play is filled with situations in which evil is depicted as good, while good is rendered evil. The line "Double, double toil and trouble," communicates the witches' intent clearly: they seek only to increase trouble for the mortals around them. The  Macbeth  witches are essential to the plot of  Macbeth  because they prov ide Macbeth‘s ‗call to action‘. Their prophesies drive his thirst for power and enable Lady Macbeth to pursue her own ambitions. Though the witches do not deliberately tell Macbeth to kill King Duncan, they use a subtle form of temptation when they inform Macbeth that he is destined to be king. By placing this thought in his mind, they effectively guide him on the path to his own destruction. This follows the pattern of temptation attributed to the Devil in the contemporary imagination: the Devil was believed to be a thought in a person's mind, which he or she might either indulge or reject. Macbeth indulges the temptation, while Banquo rejects it. But are the witch‘s prophesies preordained? Or do they simply encourage Macbeth to become active in constructing his own fate? It is perhaps part of Macbeth‘s character to shape his life according to the predictions  –   whereas Banquo does not. Throughout the play, the witches lurk like dark thoughts and unconscious temptations to evil. In part, the mischief they cause stems from their supernatural powers, but mainly it is the result of their understanding of the weaknesses of their specific interlocutors  —they play upon Macbeth‘s ambition like puppeteers.  By writing the  Macbeth  witches in this manner, Shakespeare is asking an age old question: are our lives already mapped out for us or do we have a hand in what happens to us? Therefore, at the end of the play the audience is forced to consider the extent to which the characters have control over their own lives. The witches‘ beards, bizarre potions, and rhymed speech make them seem slightly ridiculous, like caricatures of the supernatural. Shakespeare has them speak in rhyming couplets throughout (their most famous line is probably ―Double, double, toil and trouble, / Fire burn and cauldron  bubble‖ in 4.1.10–  11), which separates them from the other characters, who mostly speak in   blank verse. T he witches‘ words seem almost comical, like malevolent nursery rhymes. Despite the absurdity of their ―eye of newt and toe of frog‖ recipes, however, they are clearly the most dangerous characters in the play, being both tremendously powerful and utterly wicked (4.1.14). The audience is left to ask whether the witches are independent agents toying with human lives, or agents of fate, whose prophecies are only reports of the inevitable. The witches bear a striking and obviously intentional resemblance to the Fates, female characters in both Norse and Greek mythology who weave the fabric of human lives and then cut the threads to end them. Some of their prophecies seem self-fulfilling. For example, it is doubtful that Macbeth would have murdered his king witho ut the push given by the witches‘ predictions. In other cases, though, their prophecies are just remarkably accurate readings of the future  —  it is hard to see Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane as being self-fulfilling in any way. The play offers no easy answers. Instead, Shakespeare keeps the witches well outside the limits of human comprehension. They embody an unreasoning, instinctive evil.
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