Character Profile: The Witches

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  • the witches
    • supernatural
      • the witches vanish as soon as they stir trouble. they trigger Macbeth's ambition but disappear immediately, as he obsesses over his fate
        • 'whither are they vanished'
      • they present the theme of appearance vs reality, as the witches appear to be real, yet Macbeth and Banquo both know they are not human
        • 'are ye fantastical, or that indeed'
      • Shakespeare would have found approval from the king with the inclusion of the witches as James I was obsessed with the idea of the supernatural, he wrote a book on witches called 'Daemonologie'
        • 'Shall raise such artificial sprites, As by the strength of their illusion'
      • Shakespeare gives the witches strange qualities, such as beards to make the audience feel uncomfortable about them and enforce the idea of them being inhumane
        • 'You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so'
    • prophesiers
      • the witches make prophecies about what will happen, but they don't explain how they will happen, and so take advantage of Macbeth's weakness, his ambition
      • they have planned out their evil acts, and wait for Macbeth. they know his every move and are able to predict where he is going, in order that they might cause trouble
        • 'a drum, a drum! / Macbeth doth come
      • they do not tell Macbeth to murder Duncan, he does that of his own accord, but they know that he will
      • they speak using juxtaposition and oxymoronic language, and this shows how they will only bring trouble and disruption
        • 'not so happy, yet much happier'
      • the witches speak in a different rhythm form the rest of the characters in the play, foreshadowing the gothic, supernatural deeds to come.
        • 'fair is foul and foul is fair'
    • evil
      • their gruesome speech sets them apart from the other characters, and Shakespeare takes away womanly, caring virtues to present the idea that they are very far from the norm
        • 'where hast thou been, sister?' 'Killing swine"
      • their leader, Hecate, is the goddess of witchcraft, but they leaver her out of the plans regarding Macbeth, showing the extent of their trouble making, that it reaches even the hierarchy of their own kind
        • 'and I, the mistress of your charms... Was never called to bear my part'
      • when Hecate discovers she was excluded from the trickery, she becomes angry and evil. Shakespeare shows that yet another person with power eventually is undermined and goes mad
        • 'get you gone, And at the pit of Acheron' (area of hell)
    • poetic devices
      • frequent use of power of three to remind the audience of their supernatural abilities
        • 'I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do'
      • frequent use of rhyme in various different structures again separates them from humanity, no other characters speak in rhyme showing they are not normal
        • 'the weird sisters, hand in hand, / posters of the sea and land'
      • instead of ten syllable pentameter, they speak in 6 or 7 syllable lines. use of three feet in their rhythm is symbolic of their witchcraft as three was see as a 'magic number'
        • 'hover through the for and filthy air'
      • the witches make only three appearances in the whole play, yet again following the rule of three to enforce their supernatural presence. this also shows how great their power is, as they are the root of all the problems that arise, yet are barely on stage
        • 'thus do go, about, about'

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