To the most extent I do not agree that the witches are the most unsettling example of the supernatural in Macbeth. There are other factors within the play such as the ambition of Macbeth and the wickedness of Lady Macbeth that cast an eerie and shocking atmosphere over the play. The reason I believe this to be the case because as part of a modern society, we have a lot more psychological horrors, and both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are considered to be insane. Whereas witches are seen more as a fantasy for us; compared to the Jacobean period, where they were considered real.
It is evident from the beginning that Macbeth’s fatal flaw is ambition. When the witches tell him that he is going to be king, his mind immediately begins to ponder on the possibilities of killing Duncan, “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man…” His ambition is unsettling because it sets of the sequence of events throughout the play that lead to his downfall. Clearly Lady Macbeth is the driving force behind Macbeth’s ambition, because she forces him to overcome his guilt by insulting him, “And live a coward in thine own esteem, letting I dare not wait upon I would, Like the poor cat I’th’adage?
” However once his ambition takes over him, it spirals out of control, leading to more murders to cover up all his wrongdoings, and leads him to being tormented by apparitions and guilt. In the end he doesn’t get the chance to enjoy the “fruits of his labour” and is beheaded by McDuff. A modern audience would view Macbeth’s actions as maniacal and ridiculous, because he became too obsessed with the idea of becoming King, that it lead to the murder of many people; this ended up being futile because he died in vain anyways. It shows that only some aspects of society have changed since the Jacobean period, rather than society as a whole.
However, a Jacobean audience would have found Macbeth’s actions more deplorable. A Jacobean audience at the time would frown upon Lady Macbeth’s behaviour in convincing her husband to commit murder, and use the graphic images that she does. “Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this” This would have especially shocked Jacobean women, because there were certain morals and taboos that they followed. Women of that period were supposed to be pious, follow religion strongly, be against violence, and had to follow demands made by men.
Lady Macbeth goes against all of these morals, but commits the taboos. She would’ve also been seen as malevolent because she gives suggestions that are intended to cause harm to others. “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty…” However, women in today’s society would find Lady Macbeth’s behaviour less disturbing than woman of the Jacobean period because females have become largely independent today compared to the restrictions that were placed upon them in earlier times.