Macbeth Beliefs in Witchcraft
In his play, Macbeth, how does Shakespeare appeal to 17th century interests and beliefs in witchcraft?
William Shakespeare, arguably the best playwright of all time, wrote Macbeth in around 1606. It was written to be performed at Hampton court, this is where King James I reportedly first saw the play. The play later moved to the Globe theater in London, which was owned by the theater company Shakespeare was employed by. As King James was a patron of the company, he was keen to impress him. The characters in the play are almost directly linked the King’s ancestry: such as Banquo and also Macbeth himself, as King James VI, as does Macbeth in this tragedy.
Witchcraft plays an incredibly important part in the play, particularly as its purpose was partly to impress and interest the king. In the 17th century, the time the play was written, people believed strongly in the present of witchcraft. Therefore it was an extremely controversial subject that was very prevalent at the time. Witches and the supernatural world had remained an often morbid fascination for generations. King James was also very interested in witchcraft, in 1590, it was reported that King James was nearly killed by a group of witches. Thousands if trials took place in which, mainly women, were falsely accused of practicing witchcraft and were burned at the stake, tortured or brutally murdered as punishment. Shakespeare interests the audience using elements of witchcraft in a number of scenes in the play. The scenes occur in act one, act two and act four.
In act one scene one, pathetic fallacy is used to create and enhance the image of evil associated with the ‘weird sisters’. This scene introduces the witches, and the audience can identify their characters with the aid of their appearance in costume, and the acts which they perform, typical to the actions of supposed witches at the time, such as chanting around cauldrons: “Fair is foul and foul is fair”, summoning their familiar spirits, allegedly given to them by the devil: “I come, Graymalkin. It is also significant as the ‘weird sisters’ always meet in stormy, desolate places, to enhance the atmosphere, using sympathetic background, and also to ensure they are not discovered. In line eight, Macbeth is first introduced, and we first learn of the meeting due to take place between Macbeth and the witches: “There to meet Macbeth”. The fact that the...