The Role of the Supernatural in Shakespeare's Play Macbeth

The Role of the Supernatural in Shakespeare's Play Macbeth
Macbeth? was a tragedy written by William Shakespeare in 1606. Five years after the death of Elizabeth 1st and the accession of James 1st, also James Vi of Scotland. The play shows the defeat of a man who has many fine qualities, but commits murder as a result of his ambition to become a king influenced by a prophecy of the supernatural witches. The first scene shows the witches planning to meet Macbeth. The setting of this scene is very important; they meet on a moor in thunder and lightning. The surroundings portray an evil image. The moor is a very lonely, barren and bleak place, while thunder and lightning are associated with evil. The witches´ language includes rhyming couplets that contradict each other and sound very powerful. ?Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air? This quote tells us about the witches´ hatred for all things good, and their love for things that are evil. Shakespeare adds rhyme and rhythm to the witches´ language to emphasize their wickedness.
The second part of this quote adds to their image of wickedness and would have created tension among the audience. Most of Shakespeare?s audience believed in the supernatural as they were discovering the origin of life. Some critics say that the witch made Macbeth commit the murder, but was this entirely true or was it Macbeth?s wife who persuaded him into doing so? How much influence did the supernatural have on Macbeth? These are just some of the questions that I will be exploring within this essay. The visual impact of the witches may give a sign of their power, and may fascinate the audience to look forwards in re-meeting them. Their strange appearance ?That not look like th? inhabitants of the earth? shows that Banquo and Macbeth are mesmerized by their looks. In act 3 scene 1, Banquo seems to comment more about their looks than Macbeth, and gives signs that Banquo is taking them less seriously than Macbeth. The witches wickedness is an obvious sign of evil and Banquo senses this but Macbeth is less convinced as they prophesized a positive future for Macbeth. Throughout the play the witches give a sign of evil and the storm that seems to move around with them is a major feature of their evil. This could mean that the witches have the power to create storms and control the weather, which gives the extent of their power. Another example of this is after Duncan?s murder when the weather turns into an intense storm. "The night has been unruly?strange screams of death" said Lennox. The witches? power is evident in all three scenes in which they appear ranging from the conjuring of storms and the storm that travels around with them. This storm not only portrays evil, but power as well. The storm emanates a sign of power right from the start and to the finish of ?Macbeth?. Another example of this storm is from Act 1 Scene 3, where the witches? creation of a storm at sea shows the extent of their power. ?Through his barkâ??tempest-tost?, saying that she created a storm that killed the sailor. I think this suggests that the witches do not have the power over life and death but can exert an evil influence over other things, the weather in this case, to create a fear within the audience. The witches appearance and actions in the play are stereotypical of the public awareness of witches in the Elizabethan age. Not much was then known about witches and their existence was already beginning to be questioned. The witches in ?Macbeth? would probably have been loosely based on the information known about witches at the time. The only information known about the witches was that they had supernatural powers that allowed then doing many mesmerizing stunts that were thought to be unexplainable by using witchcraft. It could be said that Macbeth controls his actions as shown when Macbeth says let fate take its course. This shows that Macbeth thought of the idea of murder before but the witches just sparked it off. The witches, for example in Act 1 Scene 2, did not have the power over life or death, but were able to tempt Macbeth into committing the murders. This ties in with the theme of the Devil in Christianity and how the devil is evil and persuasive. The Devil cannot make you do anything but simply tempt you into committing a crime. However you could say that the witches in ?Macbeth? were not responsible for all the events leading up to the climax of the play. The witches seem able to control Macbeth?s destiny. If they had indeed manipulated his destiny to an extent, this would show that the witches in the play did have power over life and death. The witches, who might be considered to be the catalysts to Macbeth?s actions, also affected all of the other characters in the play in some way. Other than the witches there are other signs of the supernatural in the play. These include the first encounter with Lady Macbeth. We get a sense of superstition in the ways in which lady Macbeth speaks to the audience, ?That I may pour my spirits in thine ear.? This shows that Lady Macbeth wanted to fill Macbeth?s head with evil thoughts that she had within her, by using supernatural methods of seduction. Even though Macbeth has committed the crimes that he has, he still regrets committing them. We can see this when he sees the daggers before his eyes just after he kills the king, which shows how he is seeing thing: ?Is this a dagger that I see before me?? This shows how Macbeth has been hallucinating the daggers, but her later find out in the play that this was not the first time that this was to happen. Macbeth also ?sees? the ghost of Banquo at the dinner table who haunts him and drives him even more insane then he is. This shows the effect of the supernatural on Macbeth?s metal state. The Jacobean audience would easily influenced by such events and would believe in their existence. In all his madness Macbeth doesn?t realise his mistake that he has just made in front of people, but still continues to act in such way that the guests could become suspicious because he thinks it is some sort of trap. Also, he becomes so fanatical that he forgets his wife, Lady Macbeth, was suffering but Macbeth did not spend time with her. This cause them to move apart from each other even more then they already were. So near towards the end of the play all signs of love and affection were gone between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and never even spoke to each other. This was the cause of the supernatural witches and the prophesies that they made. In conclusion I believe that the supernatural was the central to action of the play and did exert a pressure on Macbeth to perform the murders and influenced the way he lived thereafter. However, the witches? powers could not extend as far as to force Macbeth to commit the murders. The witches did not force him to do the murder but just influenced him in doing so. Their role, as outlined earlier, was to incite him to doing so.

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