Macbeth was set around 1040s, during this era, Elizabethan and Jacobean times, the traditional theory of witches was widely accepted; and anyone who questioned it was believed to be a witch themselves; if there was suspicion of a person being a witch, prosecution was most likely made. The play “Macbeth” is a tragedy, because of Macbeth; the hero aspect in the play is brought to ruin. Although he is not an idealistic hero, he’s the main character and suffers great loss, even death; the witches had caused him to bring it upon himself, by misleading his blind ambition.
Throughout the 1040s, people were led to believe, because of religion and traditional that Kings were chosen by God. If someone committed treachery, it was considered an act against God; a sin. This is why the audience were so shocked by Macbeth even just contemplating killing the King. In modern society, the equivalent of something so wrong would be like a mother murdering her child. Shakespeare uses the theme of witches in the play introduction to create an eerie, dramatic atmosphere. His stage directions are for an isolate place; deserted with thunder and lightning.
Shakespeare conveys a dark, superstitious environment with the introduction. The witches open the first scene; “When shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain? ” Not only is that mysterious, all three weather conditions are grim and depressing. This makes the set a very dramatic statement, distinctly creepy and unearthly. The witches predict that Macbeth will be King and Thane of Cawdor, this was taken lightly until Macbeth was given title of Thane of Cawdor, much to his disbelief; “All Hail Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! Directly after this scene, the unlikely odds of it becoming true happens, this foreshadows early on that the witch’s other predictions will come true.
Macbeth was reconsidering the idea of killing the King to become King himself, although Lady Macbeth had not changed her mind. Macbeth realizes he should be the one to protect the king; “Who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself. ” He did not want to “bear the knife” and be the one to murder him. Macbeth’s re-evaluation had angered Lady Macbeth, she would accept him no less but king.
She then questions his manliness, in a hope to challenge him to do it; daring him to prove himself a man; “When you durst do it, then you were a man” she says “were a man” in the past tense, to say he isn’t anymore, unless he kills the king. She tries to make Macbeth feel guilty, by saying she would of done it for him; “Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this. ” She challenges his loyalty to her, comparing his false promises to what she would do for him.
Macbeth goes back to see the witches, because he is worried about the consequences and guilt of killing the King and Banquo. “You untie the winds and let them fight against the churches”; he inquires about what is happening to the world, and him, because he is scared of it. Shakespeare uses the witches to reassure Macbeth that there is nothing to worry about; “the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” this leads him to believe he is invincible, he trusts them as a result of all the other prophecies told becoming true, this puts him at ease.
Another prophecy the witch’s apparition, which they had conjured up, says Macbeth will only be harmed when something supposedly impossible happens, “Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him”, taking into consideration the improbable chances of “Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill” ever happening, he becomes confident he is out of harm’s way.
The witches caused Macbeth’s false reassurance; when in reality he was in danger. Shakespeare had made it so all the witches prophecies had come true, even if Macbeth had misinterpreted the final one of him only being harmed when “Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill”, in theory the witches were truthful, but they misled Macbeth to his death, with him feeling fearless of man, when he should of been more cautious; “I bear a charmed life, which must not yield, to one of woman born.
When that is not the case, and he could of not died if he protected himself more. The witches played a large role in the play, turning Macbeth, an honest man corrupt with power and the want for more, along with the want for reassurance to keep it, by killing Banquo and attempted murder of his son. The witches were vital to the tragedy element in the play, Macbeth would not of been tempted to kill the King, or misguided to his destruction.