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Macbeth Coursework Essay

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Refer ring to the three main scenes that the witches appear in, write about the effect they give to the play as a whole and also how they influence Macbeth to behave as he does.

Macbeth, a tragic story of how greed can corrupt the mind. Written in 1606 for King James the first, people did actually believe in witches. I my-self believe that William Shakespeare used the witches as the “fuel” for his play, I think this led to the massive success of “Macbeth”.

When people thought of King James the first they may have also thought of witches. After all James did publicise his belief’s and thought in witches. He believed that they had an effect on his life. The people of his countries (England and Scotland) would have thought it was completely normal. Now a day, if someone accused someone of being a witch, the accuser would be looked upon in society as insane.

The idea of witches over the years has simply dried out.

In class we have watched and studied two different films based on Macbeth. One was “Macbeth on the Estate”. This was extremely different to what I expected. Produced in 1996 it’s quite a modern film. I thought it was incredible how they managed to use every word from Macbeth, (the play its-self) and fit it into a modern set. The film was filmed on an estate on Birmingham and the main characters were young street “yobs”! Personally I think it must have been a hard job for the film producers to re-film Macbeth into a modern time.

Another film was just called “Macbeth” produced in 1971 it’s quite an old film. It was though exactly what I expected. It was a brilliant film and only a few features let it down. Music which I think plays a big role in films and plays because it allows us to understand the mood and feeling of the play/film. I think technology was to blame for this though!

Did the witches have an effect on the audience? Yes of course did. Why? Simply because witchcraft played an big part in the lives of the people who lived during the period of the 1500’s to the 1600’s. I mean, going out to town, bowling is all normal but what about going to see the local witch been executed publicly? 300 years ago this would as normal as any of the activities above. Back then I think people were fascinated with witches. Witches held so much mystery and had a force of fear surrounding them. Of course this is what people thought, if people went to see “Macbeth” at the theatre in Leeds, obviously I don’t think people would have as much interest as people 300 years ago. There would be interest in the witches – I’m not saying the opposite, but not as much as back then. I think it would make the audience wonder how and why the people of the 1600’s lived like they did.

The witches appear in three main scenes in Macbeth:

Act 1 scene 1

Act 1 scene 3

Act 4 scene 1

In act 1 scene 1 they, to me, introduce the play. Although we often forget that the play is all about witchcraft, thinking about it, the witches do play an important part in Macbeth. I think when Shakespeare wrote act 1 scene 1 his intentions were to grip the audience at the very beginning. The witches do not appear to do anything in this scene it seems as if they’re there to introduce them-selves, they don’t really appear for a reason. I think it’s just to hype the audience up for the rest of the play.

In act 1 scene 3 the witches tell us basically what Macbeth is about. Shakespeare grips the audience even tighter when they say:

FIRST WITCH: All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane

of Glamis.

SECOND WITCH: All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane

of Cawdor.

THIRD WITCH: All hail Macbeth, that shalt be

King hereafter.

I think Shakespeare here uses repetition really well. It adds mystery and feeling to the play. A Victorian audience at this moment must be really “into” the play. The mystery deepens even more when less than a few scenes away a messenger arrives to tell Macbeth that he is now Thane of Cawdor.

A modern audience at this point must shiver with excitement. A Victorian audience may have done the same, after all these people did fear witches in their day.

In act 4 scene 1 I don’t really feel that this scene does much for the play. Some people may disagree and I can see why. I mean people sat their reading the book must be thinking, “how the hell can a tree move?”

This is because Macbeth says:

MACBETH: Who can impress the forest, bid the tree

Unfix its earth-bound root?

This will keep the reader wondering, “I wonder when this prophesy will come true?”

I think they would think this because they want to see how the tree ends up moving this was clever on Shakespeare’s part this would have helped keep the audience interested. There are three prophesies all which tell Macbeth when to start worrying.

The language the witches use is strange even for Shakespeare’s time! Another thing is that the lines are shorter than the lines in other parts of the play. I don’t think this is a coincidence, I personally think Shakespeare did this to keep the witches rhymes simple. I think he did this to keep the audience interested and not put them off.

The use of rhyme – people often forget that poetic writing doesn’t have to rhyme, in fact in the play there isn’t really much rhyming going on, but when the witches speak in Macbeth there’re speeches do rhyme unlike most parts of the play.

To add even more mystery to the witches they use strange ingredients in their potions! I mean we all expect strange items but not that strange. Cat’s tongues, guts, eyes what more do we want? I think this would have helped Shakespeare with his audience. I think they would have loved the idea of witches around a cauldron especially James!

Going back and looking at these two scenes:

Act 1 scene 3

Act 4 scene 1

We see that Macbeth is involved in both scenes. In act 1 scene 3 we see Macbeth as a worrier for his country, a gentleman. In this scene he “bumps” into the witches with Banquo his best friend. From what I can tell Macbeth is a bit shocked I think this because he basically asks them what they are, I think he doubts that they are human. I think this because Macbeth says:

MACBETH: Speak if you can: what are you?

The witches then tell Macbeth that he shall be Thane of Cawdor then King. Banquo interrupting seems more enthusiastic about talking to the witches who then tell Banquo his children shall be Kings. Maybe Macbeth is trying to take in what he’s just been told. I think Macbeth wants to believe the witches but he doesn’t want to get his hopes up. That’s why he’s looking for a reason, he asks:

MACBETH: By Sinell’s death I know I am Thane of Glamis,

But how, of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives

A prosperous gentleman;

The witches then vanish and Macbeth is left talking to Banquo. I think Macbeth is still avoiding taking about him been King, he says:

MACBETH: Your children shall be Kings.

In Act 4 Scene 1 we see Macbeth as a murderer and a evil man or should I say – King. He barges onto the scene and demands answers from the witches I know this because he says:

MACBETH: Howe’er you come to know it, answer me:

Three apparitions then go on to tell Macbeth three things:

One that he should be aware of Macduff,

Two that he should he should be aware of anyone not born from a women’s womb and

Three that he should we weary when the woods begin to move. I think at this point in the play Macbeth is worried about Banquo’s children and what the witches told Macbeth at the beginning of the play. I think this because he says:

MACBETH: Can tell so much-will Banquo’s issue ever

Reign in this Kingdom?

The witches do not give Macbeth his answer. I think the reason for this is because if the audience know the answer to this question then they can figure out the end of the play.

As I’ve already said, I do think the witches played an enormous part in Macbeth. I also think that they play a rather big part in Macbeth’s life after all aren’t they really the ones responsible for King Duncan’s death? I think they are. I think this because at the end of the day the witches gave Macbeth the idea of killing the witch. I think as soon as the third witch says:

THIRD WITCH: All hail Macbeth, that shalt be

King hereafter.

I think this is, in a way the poison been injected into Macbeth’s blood. It’s only a matter of time before it begins to kick in, and when it does Macbeth will think up his plans to murder King Duncan. Another reason I think the witches are to blame is because Macbeth wouldn’t have done it with out them I think this because Macbeth says to his wife when she pushes him into murdering Duncan:

MACBETH: We will proceed no further in this business

He also says:

MACBETH: So foul and fair a day I have not seen.

I think the above proves he wouldn’t have murdered Duncan if he had not met the witches. I don’t think the witches are all to blame though, I don’t think Lady Macbeth helps either she’s always trying to push Macbeth into committing murder. Some people in the audience may wonder if Lady Macbeth is a witch or perhaps the witches have put a spell on her?

I have seen two different versions of the witches on screen and both were extremely different. Obviously the two versions were Polanski’s version and Macbeth on the Estate.

In Polanski’s version the witches were what you would expect, old ugly women who lived in a dirty smelling cave but in Macbeth on the estate’s version the witches were played by three children who lived in an old abandoned flat. I thought this was a rather interesting (and clever) concept.

Both films were very good but if I had to choose one which I thought was the most effective (concerning the witches only) I would choose Polanski’s version. This is because the witches were exactly what I expect and want. You don’t want sweet little children playing the part of horrible witches. It just isn’t Macbeth. It rips the whole idea of witches into shreds or to be more precise it doesn’t follow the stereotype. Some people may think this is a bad thing but I would have to disagree with them.

However in Polanski’s version the witches are brilliant they’re ugly, they’re old, they’re dirty and they’re naked. I also think Polanski’s version was better because we saw the witches using magic. For example when they faded out into thin air. It was what I expected and the reasons above are the reasons I choose Macbeth over Macbeth on the Estate.

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