Q:

What do the witches in "Macbeth" represent?

A:

Quick Answer

The three witches in "Macbeth" represent evil and darkness. The witches demonstrate the external evil forces working against Macbeth specifically, but that allegorically may influence any person. They are also a metaphorical reflection of the darkness within Macbeth himself.

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Full Answer

In "Macbeth," Shakespeare uses the three witches, sometimes called the Weird Sisters, to explore the philosophical question of predestination. Their ability to predict the future accurately raises questions about whether the events of Macbeth's life are predetermined or he is the master of his own fate. If the events of Macbeth's life are already written, the witches are simply informing him of his future. If Macbeth can choose his own destiny, the witches are manipulating Macbeth into a self-fulfilling prophesy. Shakespeare ultimately leaves the audience to form their own conclusion. One prediction, that Macbeth's companion Banquo’s children are to one day become kings, is unfulfilled at the end of the play.

In "Macbeth," the hatred that the three witches have toward humanity is underscored by the darkness and rain that accompanies their appearance. The line "Double, double toil and trouble" speaks of their wish to increase the trials and hardships of the human race. Shakespeare further separates the witches from humanity by diverging from the blank verse used in the rest of "Macbeth" to rhyming couplets used in the witch's speech.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    When was "Macbeth" written?

    A:

    William Shakespeare wrote "Macbeth" in England in 1606. The tragedy was first published in 1636, and it was set in the 11th century in the Middle Ages.

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  • Q:

    How does Lady Macbeth explain Macbeth's behavior?

    A:

    Lady Macbeth accounts for Macbeth's behavior in William Shakespeare's "Macbeth," by saying that he has had this kind of behavior since he was child, and even has seizures during these moments. She essentially tries to explain his behavior away as a mental illness. This occurs during Act 3, Scene 4, when they attend a feast and Macbeth alone sees the ghost of Banquo.

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  • Q:

    In Macbeth, what does Hecate want the witches to do?

    A:

    In William Shakespeare's play "Macbeth," Hecate wants the witches to concoct magical spells and charms and to convene in hell for the next coming of Macbeth. Hecate chastises the three witches for neglecting to include her in the witches' affairs with Macbeth and demands reparations for their actions. While the witches are brewing their potions, Hecate uses a moon droplet to conjure illusions that will induce complacency in Macbeth and make him contemptible of fate and death, which will eventually lead to his defeat.

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  • Q:

    What do the witches predict for Banquo in "Macbeth"?

    A:

    In Shakespeare's "Macbeth," the witches predict that Banquo will never be king but that his descendants will be kings. The witches also predict that Banquo will be happier than Macbeth.

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