The Witches And Macbeth's Downfall

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How far is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall? When considering the above question, it is important to discuss the relative ‘power’ of other characters within the play in order to establish their influence on Macbeth’s actions. The first characters to consider are the witches. Shakespeare establishes their power and supernatural abilities from the moment they are introduced to us. Significantly, the witches open the play, a further indication of their importance to the plot. The first thing that we notice is that they are being identified with dark powers and chaos. The stage directions tell us that they meet during a storm. In order to make them seem particularly powerful and different from other characters, Shakespeare has them speaking in rhyming couplets, “When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in rain.” Not only do these opening lines introduce the witches’ speech patterns, they also establish their powers as they can predict the weather and control it. The weather conditions when they meet can all be linked with the theme of chaos and disorder, which foreshadows their role within the play as it is their predictions which awaken the seeds of ambition within Macbeth. The fact that they cannot be trusted is also implied in this first scene as their speech is full of antithesis and this foreshadows the equivocation they use to confuse Macbeth and fill him with a false sense of security, “When the battles lost and won” “Fair is foul, and foul is fair;” When we next meet the witches, the setting is again chilling in that they meet in thunder. Again, the supernatural powers that the witches have are highlighted as they wreak their revenge on a sailor, whose wife refused to give one of them chestnuts. Their power to control the experiences of the poor sailor is established and they explicitly discuss their ability to
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