The Supernatural in Macbeth

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  • How does Shakespeare present the supernatural?
    • The witches are a supernatural force. Their 'strange intelligence' and ability to predict the future gives them power over humans.
    • When the witches are planning to harm the sea captain, they say that his ship 'cannot be lost' which hints that their power is limited.
    • The witches do not appear often, but they drive the play as the inciting force. It is unlikely that Macbeth would have committed so many terrible crimes if he had not been influenced by the witches.
    • Shakespeare presents the witches as completely evil. They are cruel, inhuman and do not show any remorse; they celebrate evil like we would celebrate goodness.
    • The supernatural elements of the play add to the atmosphere; they make the play darker and more frightening.
    • The visions and hallucinations that Macbeth has of Banquo and the dagger, and Lady Macbeth's vision of the blood on her hands may have been intentional and inflicted by the witches to stir up trouble.
      • These visions fill the characters with fear and causes them language to become agitated and nervous; 'Prithee, see there! Behold, look, lo!' 'O,o,o!'
    • When Fleance escapes the murderers, the witches predictions can still become true. This shows that it is impossible to cheat fate.
      • This shows that Macbeth would have become king even if he did not force it to happen
    • The supernatural are presented as evil as they have familiars that are in contact with the devil.'I come, Graymalkin!' 'Paddock calls.'
    • A seventeenth century audience would have taken the witches very seriously, as king James I had hundreds of so-called witches executed.


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