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The Witches of Macbeth

“If you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?” This famous line sung by the local hip hop phenomenon, Marshall Mathers (Eminem), is one that we all can relate to. Everyone has a dream, or some sort of goal that they strive for; moreover, we all have a mentor, a guardian, or someone in our lives that pushes us to go the extra mile to reach that goal. Similarly, in The Tragedy of Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, the characteristics and prophecies of the three witches are used to express the idea of perverse in the play, establish the atmosphere, and aid Macbeth in his pursuit of power, but don’t cause the tragic consequences of his actions.

The symbolic prophecies of the witches represent the evil in Macbeth himself, but also the perverse events surrounding him. Throughout the play, the idea of equivocation is used to establish a sense of things and situations seeming to be different from what they actually are. “Fair is foul and foul is fair”(1, 1, 12) is the first sign of equivocation in the play, and this line is spoken, of course, by one of the weird sisters. This idea “fair is foul and foul is fair” (1, 1, 12) will follow Macbeth throughout the play; consequently, Macbeth himself becomes an example of equivocation. By inviting King Duncan into his home it seems that Macbeth is performing a warm, noble gesture for his king; however the audience knows that Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, have an ulterior, perverse motive: they plan to murder Duncan in order to obtain the crown for Macbeth. Macbeth is reminded of his perverse behavior shortly after he murders Duncan. An old man comes into the scene and begins to speak of events surrounding Macbeth and the rest of the characters before the murder. “’Tis unnatural. One Tuesday last, a falcon, tow ‘ring in her pride of place, was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed”(2, 4, 14-19). When Macbeth hears this, it reminds him that he is not of himself, he is out of character. He realizes that the perverse events surrounding

him, including the witches’ prophecy, have taken over him. Unfortunately, the evil in Macbeth will continue to grow as the play progresses. The witches themselves are also perverse, in that they are supernatural beings. They are said to be “sexually loathsome”(Bradley 172). Similarly, when Lady Macbeth receives the news that the witches have predicted that Macbeth “shall be king hereafter” (1, 3, 51) she asks to be “unsexed” so that she may have the strength Macbeth lacks in order to kill Duncan. Soon after, Lady Macbeth appears to all as the woman of the house. She even faints, a very lady like action, when she “discovers” the news of Duncan’s murder. However, when Lady Macbeth is alone with Macbeth, she is stronger than he. She possesses man like qualities and even suggests that she could murder her own nursing child. Further perversity is found in Macbeth when Banquo then refers to the witches in Act II just before Macbeth is about the murder the king. Shortly after the mentioning of the weird sisters, Macbeth sees a dagger, which is said to be a hallucination. Also, the witches often refer to thunder and lightening, or thunder and lightening can be “heard” in the background when they appear to Macbeth. These forces of nature also bring upon perverse to the play. This darkness is emphasized in Act III, after the murder of Duncan. Macbeth is unable to sleep, and he no longer confides in his wife. Even Lady Macbeth, who originally condoned the evil acts, which brought them to the throne, seems to think that Macbeth has become dark and mysterious. This sense of darkness, which follows the witches, also follows Macbeth as his character deteriorates until the end of the play when he is finally killed. Even then, he is left in a dreary atmosphere.

The atmosphere of Macbeth is filled with darkness, deception, horror, and supernatural events; furthermore, the physical characteristics, as well as some of the language used by the witches, help establish this atmosphere. The play opens and we find the witches setting a dark and dreary feeling within the first lines of the play. “When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lighting, or in rain?” (1, 1, 1-2). The language used in the dialogue of the witches also provides an atmosphere of a perverse nature. The “fog and filthy air” (1,1,13) also sets an immediate darkness upon the entire play in the opening scene. The witches also speak of killing swine and revenging themselves on sailors wives who had refused them chestnuts. These acts of violence could easily foreshadow the bloody events that follow this dialogue in the acts to come. When Macbeth is near the witches he takes notice to the dark change the witches seem to bring upon the atmosphere around him.

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