The Partial Responsibility of the Witches in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

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It is the purpose of this assignment to explore whether the witches influenced Macbeth sufficiently to cause him to commit murder, treason and regicide, or whether Macbeth was capable of committing these crimes on his own and the witches only made this happen a little earlier and a little more certainly. We will also explore the Elizabethan audience, their superstitions, and how they would react to the character of the witches as seen in Macbeth.

Historically, the witches have been seen as evil beings that gain evil powers from the devil to use during their lifetime, in return for their souls when they die. In the United Kingdom, man's belief in witches and the supernatural was very strong
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During trial the "witch" would be searched for such a mark, or even tortured into a confession.

James I was terrified of witches, who he believed destroyed his ship "The Tiger" and tried to kill him. The populace would follow the example of their monarch and as a result people hated witches and were horrified by the accounts they heard.

The effect that the witches would have had on the Elizabethan audience would have been phenomenal. The audience would be filled with fear and awe every time the witches appeared on stage, and they would be shocked to see Macbeth consulting with witches, which was an act punishable by death at the time.

Shakespeare uses numerous special effects where the witches are concerned. This is especially true of the four scenes where the witches directly appear, scenes Act 1 Scene 1, Act 1 Scene 3, Act 3 Scene 5 and Act 4 Scene 1. In all four cases, thunder precedes the three witches, almost as though nature is protesting against the witches' presence.

I will now analyse the four scenes in which the witches can be seen to directly influence the play.

In Act 1,Scene 1, the very first stage action in Macbeth reads:

"Thunder
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