Shakespeare's Macbeth Act 1 Scene 1 analysis (Mr Bruff)


"When Shall we three meet again?"

  • First time audience sees witches in Macbeth 
  • invited into a mysterious world inhabited by creatures, we don't know if they're good or bad
  • Shakespeare uses the witches as a way of pulling the audience in 
  • First line the audience hears is "When shall we three meet again?
  • In Jacobean times, the Witches would have been a huge draw for audiences because big interest and belief in Witchcraft & Supernatural activity 
  • Witches meeting is complete 
  • Shakespeare has cleverly constructed this moment in the scene because 
  • It prompts our curiosity about who the witches are and their importance in the play in further scenes of the play & their role they are going to take 
  • It helps to set the scene - This is a dark world where there's confusion everything is not quite  what it seems 
  • This theme 'Appearance vs Reality' is very important and is recurring 
  • The theme is very important for the rest of the play because most of the important points of the play in the text are based on this contrast between Appearance vs Reality 
  • The scene closes- Audience not with any idea as to what is happening 
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"Fair is Foul & foul is Fair, Hover through the fo

  • These two lines seem to reinforce the idea that this is a frightening mysterious world where the supernatural holds some power 
  • The fact that Shakespeare structures the play so as to show this to the audience first is quite significant 
  • He clearly wants to establish that the supernatural and this very dark atmosphere will have strong importance in the play 

Structure & Form  

  • Witches speak in rhyme. The quote above is Rhyming Couplets. Rhyming Couplets is where we have two lines that rhyme with each other. And the next two lines rhyme with each other etc. 
  • Shakespeare was a master of language- He chose different styles of Language to signify the importance o/r rank of the character speaking so for example the noble characters in Macbeth 
  • The witches use of rhyming couplets gives a very sinister and to the play and is full of evil 
  • In Shakespeare's time, this effect was sinister and scary where witchcraft was regarded seriously. 
  • The way the witches talk is in Trochaic Tetrameter. The opposite of Iam. With one unstressed syllable then one stressed.  Example: "Fair is Foul & Foul is Fair"
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Noble Characters & Iambic Pentameter

  • is where you have five stressed syllables and five unstressed syllables in a line 
  • An Example of Iambic Pentameter:  And fixed his head upon our battlements 
  • The bold bits are the stressed syllables where you can put emphasis when reading 
  • The stress- the kind of power on every other syllable 
  • gives a sing-song quality to lines 
  • Replacing words with sounds : de Dum de Dum de Dum and this is what is known as Blank Verse 
  • Shakespeare uses Blank Verse often 
  • Blank verse simply means the words don't have to rhyme but it must be written in Iambic Pentameter 
  • This is very important- comparison to the witches lines who do rhyme and who don't use Iambic Pentameter 
  • It is very good in the Exams to point out how a character's type of language can reflect the character and the status  
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