Published on October 31, 2008
Macbeth : Macbeth The Wyrd Sisters Act I, Scene i Directly linked to Greek Fates : Directly linked to Greek Fates Clotho-spinner; spins each life Lachesis-alloter; determines length Atropos-unturner; cutter; choose the manner & time to die Also present in Roman & Germanic mythology Shakespeare’s Witches : Shakespeare’s Witches The Wyrd sisters in Macbeth represent: Darkness Chaos Conflict They are agents & witnesses. Their presence forbodes doom & treason Based on Holinshed’s Chronicles "Macbeth and Banquo encountering the witches," a woodcut from the Holinshed Chronicles. Holinshed’s Chronicles : Holinshed’s Chronicles History of Britain, Scotland and Ireland Three Witches are dressed, "in strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of elder world.” Tolman, Albert H. "Notes on Macbeth." PMLA. (1896) 11.2 pp. 200-219 During Shakespeare's day, witches were seen as worse than rebels, "the most notorious traytor and rebell that can be." They were not only political traitors, but spiritual traitors as well. : During Shakespeare's day, witches were seen as worse than rebels, "the most notorious traytor and rebell that can be." They were not only political traitors, but spiritual traitors as well. Macbeth & the witches. The witches & Hecate. The Witches Confuse : The Witches Confuse They straddle the borders between reality and the supernatural. It is unclear whether they control fate, or whether they are merely its agents. They defy logic, not being subject to the rules of the real world. "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air" : "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air" To many, the witches set the tone for the play by establishing a sense of confusion. Macbeth, Wright, Geoffery. Dir. 2007. Double, double toil and trouble," : Double, double toil and trouble," The witches do not tell Macbeth to kill King Duncan. They tempt him. They say he is destined to be king. Planting this thought in his mind, they guide him on the path to his own destruction. Temptation : Temptation In Shakespeare’s time it was believed that the Devil could tempt you in thought. Than you could indulge in that thought or reject it. The witches follow this pattern. Macbeth indulges in temptation, while Banquo rejects. Representations : Representations In Holinshed’s Chronicles, the witches are upper-class noblewomen. Shakespeare moves away from this image, making them other-worldly, withered, and oddly attired. The Voodoo Witches : The Voodoo Witches Orson Welles’1948 film altered the witches' roles. They create a voodoo doll of Macbeth in scene one. This is seen as a sign that they control his actions completely. Faceless, they carry forked staves as dark parallels to the Celtic cross. In the end they cut off the head of his voodoo doll Modern Depictions : Modern Depictions Magical power has been sensualized. The witches have been strung-out waifs, sylphid spirits, and teen goth temptresses. Continued Influence : Continued Influence Beguiling, otherworldly, or repugnant, the wyrd sisters continue to influence. J.K. Rowling noted that their prophecy inspired her to create the prophecy that guides Lord Voldemort. The Question : The Question If Macbeth hadn't met the witches, would he have killed Duncan? Would any of it have happened? Is he fated or did he make it happen?