Elizabethan England and Witchcraft - Magical Influence on Macbeth and the Contemporary Audience Essay

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Macbeth, set in the Elizabethan era, caused mixed feelings to spring forth in the audience. During this era people were full of superstition. In Macbeth the witches and their prophecies are seen as supernatural and this enhances the audience’s fear thereof. Macbeth went to see the witches on different occasions and each time he returned with more information and more confusion. I believe that some of the members of the audience saw the magical influence of the witches that overtook Macbeth and some saw it as his own flaws. Evidence would suggest that most of them believed his actions to be influenced. Witchcraft was an unknown practice for those who did not practise it and the unknown is what people feared the most. The following will explore the audience of the time and how/whether their limited knowledge will have them stand by Macbeth or against him. Witchcraft during the Elizabethan era, as mentioned before, was a feared practise. Those who practised witchcraft were believed to possess powers “above nature, and they will do harm by this power” (Rosen, 1991:3). Those who were convicted for possessing magical powers usually achieved feats that were seen as impossible or beyond the norm. The fear of the unknown is what drove people to accuse those who had this knowledge of witchcraft. That which could not be explained was seen as witchcraft and although (some) witches practised good magic as well, only the bad side was noticed. During this period, the wealthy and noble were hardly ever accused of witchcraft. Those who were lonely, poor and ghastly were usually targeted. Because of the misconception people had at the time, witches were convicted with limited or no evidence. The contemporary audience could easily have been convinced of the magical influence that exists in Macbeth. Whether or not Shakespeare’s intention was to play on the emotions and beliefs of his

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