The Importance Of The Supernatural In Macbeth
The supernatural forces are the skeletal structure of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth; it was this dark presence that added an element of suspense and a much-needed escape from the mundane for the audience. Moreover the atmosphere and aura the dark forces create are the backbone of the subplot and are the instruments that bring about revelations in character, plot and the hatred society had towards forces they didn’t understand.
Undoubtedly the under lining of the plot is highlighted with events that have paranormal roots. Both the bloody dagger that intices Macbeth towards Duncan’s chamber and the ghost of Banquo he later sees are dismissed as figments of his imagination. Most psychologists would diagnose him with dementia, but in that day in age these events would’ve been regarded as forces that hopped down to Earth from the supernatural family tree, therefore Shakespeare originally meant for these scenes to be of mystical origin. “Art thou not a fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight?…. Or false creation. (Act II, Scene I Lines 41,42) ” Considering the fact that King James IV, who had a keen interest in demonology and witchcraft, was also in attendance, an extra set of ghostly images would have been appropriate. If these images were real then where did they come from? It’s most likely that the three witches conjured them up to complete the first set of prophecies they gave Macbeth. Shortly after Duncan’s death, his horses eat each other in frenzy, possibly symbolizing the disturbance in the natural order of god. If this is true then it is very likely that the dark forces had a hand in King Duncan’s murder, which leads to this imbalance in nature.
Unquestionably, the first set of prophesies are what started much of the evil in the first half of the play. These predictions let the audience know that something must be done for these to come true and it kept them on the edge of their seats trying to figure out what that might be. In the second half of Macbeth there are three apparitions that give a second set of prophecies, “ beware the thane of Fife…. none of woman born shall harm Macbeth…. Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill. (Act IV, Scene I Lines 78, 85-86, 100, 101, 102) ” After hearing this Macbeth becomes over confident and decides to kill Macduff’s family. Would he have made this grave and gruesome mistake if he hadn’t visited the witches? He would have been afraid of the consequences of his actions, but he was influenced by their impossible and improbable words. This was the incident in the second half of the play that directly leads to his downfall. Although it was Macbeth who made this decision, there is no doubt that this is exactly what the “weird sisters” wanted. Certainly the witches knew that Macbeth was coming and were maybe even brewing the potion to help the apparitions materialize. The second witch says, “ By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. (Act IV, Scene I Lines 44-45) ” Obviously she’s talking about Macbeth. This could also mean that the pricking of the thumb is a sign: a sign that someone or something is approaching. These women have immense power, uncommon for that time.
The witches are portrayed on the other hand as evil beings whose only means of amusement is to interfere in the lives of mortals to cause trouble and chaos. These witches do have incredible power, but it is incomplete and flawed. For instance when a witch metamorphoses in to a rat she’s missing a tail and they can’t directly control peoples actions, only influence those with a wicked heart. The idea that only god’s power is complete and the devil’s is not is reinforced through this. Shakespeare uses the term “hag” to describe the witches, but during the time of Macbeth “hag” meant a woman of wisdom. In this case it means “old bat”, which it later came to mean when the massive witch-hunts began in the early Renaissance. The concept of the witches being child eating, blood drinking monsters are enhanced by the ingredients the “weird sisters” use to make the “hell broth”. Why was this secondary idea of imperfection among witches played up? Is it so that the audience can feel a sense of superiority and relief while still caught up in the magic? The original lines of the “ double double, toil and trouble” rhyme is said to be from the book of Black Magic and that is why those who consider the book to be sacred placed a curse upon the play, which still haunts productions of Macbeth to this day. This unexpected element also adds to the dark mystique of Macbeth. Dark and gloomy weather also acts as a symbol and a warning of evil. This is evident throughout the play, but it is also mentionable that the opening dialogue is, “when shall we three meet again in thunder, in lightning, or in rain? (Act I, Scene I Lines 1-2) ” These are well known stereotypes of the supernatural and it originates from the time of Shakespeare.
There is no denying that the witches were extremely influential and important in the play, but their character inspires a lot more of the plot than just their three scenes. Their unique role sheds light on the social and political climate of the time. The supernatural forces define the subplot and serve as the silver lining and simple distraction in the midst of the piling bodies and the river of blood. The true character of Macbeth was brought out through the sacred incantations and the charmed potions of the “weird sisters.” It was this existence that provided the much needed wickedly enchanting under layer this play is famous for. Without this mysterious presence Macbeth would have been just another tale about the lust and greed of mankind.
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