Home > Literature essays > How the witches contribute to Macbeth’s downfall

Essay: How the witches contribute to Macbeth’s downfall

Essay details and download:

  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
  • Reading time: 5 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: 14 February 2022*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 1,475 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 6 (approx)
  • Tags: Macbeth essays

Text preview of this essay:

This page of the essay has 1,475 words. Download the full version above.

William Shakespeare wrote the tragedy play – Macbeth – in the year 1606; this renowned play is centralised mainly on a character named Macbeth who transforms from a heroic and ideal man that is beloved and honoured by all into a horrific tyrant. King James ruled England and Scotland in 1603, because of this, the play was exhibited to the Jacobean audience. Shakespeare must’ve written this play to show how women were not supposed to be listened to as they were believed to be subordinate to men and to please the King with the resolution of the play, which is where the kingship wins despite the supernatural attempting to disorder nature and the greater chain of being. Since it was possible that Macbeth could change his thoughts and could differentiate between right and wrong in the beginning, he was only partially responsible for his downfall; the subsequent blame should go to Lady Macbeth as she manipulated him by psychologically tormenting him by using phrases to insult his manhood, his courage and their love “their love would be unconventional to the Jacobean times “, but most of the blame for his defeat should go to the witches as they deceived him through twisted words with double meanings.

The witches were predominantly to blame for Macbeth’s downfall due to them injecting the idea of becoming King to his brain, without their interaction, he would’ve most probably been King without his interference like how he’s become the Thane of Cawdor, it is because Macbeth’s fate is revealed to him that he becomes obsessed with achieving it. When Macbeth becomes the Thane of Cawdor, his ambitious nature got the best of him as he expresses to the audience when he says ‘my thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical’ through his soliloquy, Shakespeare might’ve used this to develop the character’s situations and make the audience understand how Macbeth doesn’t seem to be the type of person the other characters view him as, instead of being faithful to the King he is contemplating regicide. The euphemism being used here might implicate that Shakespeare wants to make Macbeth remain innocent and evoke sympathy from the audience as he wants to blame for his destruction on Lady Macbeth or the Witches, the renaissance audience might start to dislike Macbeth for thinking of being sacrilegious and for trusting the supernatural as they were seen to be the cause for bad things to happen, so the contemporary audience would most likely view this as a foreshadowing for something unfortunate to happen later.

The witches contribute to Macbeth’s downfall even more as they deceive him through contorted words. We know that they can’t be trusted as Shakespeare uses the trochaic tetrameter for their lines which is the opposite to what his noble characters would speak in as they’re given lines with iambic pentameters, as they are in the bottom of the ‘greater chain of being’. In 4.1, when the witches were making a potion, they’ve cast the spell: Double, double toil and trouble/ Fire burn and cauldron. Like stated before, they’re using trochaic tetrameter, they are special characters as the Witches don’t speak in prose but are not noble as they don’t speak in iambic pentameter, so this would highlight the witches to be portrayed as unusual characters. The witches contributed to his downfall because they betrayed his trust for them by showing him visions that they know that he’ll misinterpret, for example, the first apparition being shown to Macbeth is to ‘beware of Macduff’ but becomes optimistic because of the second apparition because it says tells him that ‘none of woman born/shall harm Macbeth’ as he assumes that all humans are born from a woman and doesn’t consider caesarian; the third apparition that Macbeth sees tells him that he ‘shall never’ die ‘until Great Birnam Wood’ will come to ‘high Dunsinane Hill’. As a result of these three visions, he becomes even more overconfident that he’s going to rule for all of his natural life however he doesn’t realise that the witches are misleading him to feel assured. The audience would also believe that Macbeth is invulnerable as they’d also presume the everyone was born from a woman and a forest cannot move places without thinking about alternative solutions.

In 1.5 Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband telling her about the witches prophecies and speaks her inner thoughts on stage, during her soliloquy she mentions that she will ‘pour’ her ‘spirits’ in’ Macbeth’s ‘ear’, this links her to the supernatural which is one of the main themes covered in the play, this metaphor symbolises that she will be manipulating Macbeth in order for him to follow his desire for ambition as well as hers. She will be ‘chastising’ him in other words, encouraging him to do the evil things she has in mind to become queen, ‘with the valour of’ her ‘tongue’ which would implicate that she will seduce him to do something and aligns power with her choice of words. After all, Lady Macbeth can do all the things men didn’t allow their wives to do as Macbeth views her as his ‘dearest partner in greatness’. Shakespeare chose Lady Macbeth to read the letter before Macbeth arrived in order for her to take her time to plan out what she was going to say to Macbeth. The reason why Lady Macbeth should be blamed is that after she was successful in Macbeth committing regicide by manipulating him to do so which lead to them becoming King and Queen, but because of this, Macbeth believed his soul was damned and craved for more power, which led him onto having restless nights thinking about murder and murdering innocent people’s lives whom he thought would be a threat to secure his position.

In 1.4, Duncan says that Malcolm will be the next King, and when Macbeth realises this he openly speaks to the audience that for his kingship prophecy to come true, he must get rid of Malcolm. Macbeth directs the ‘stars’ to ‘hide your fires’ as he wants to keep the secret of his ‘black and deep desires’ of becoming King, as he would be willing to do anything. In plays, Shakespeare uses rhyme for characters who have status or people with higher social class, and in this scene, it’s the first time that Macbeth speaks in rhyme, which would imply that he is so assured that he is going to be King. King Duncan’s would view Macbeth as honourable and loyal whereas the audience’s perception of Macbeth would be filled with revulsion and horror as it was believed to be the worst crime to commit, which would probably be Shakespeare’s prime reason for including this in a soliloquy. We obviously cannot just put all the blame onto Lady Macbeth and the Witches as he did have some fault within his thoughts, which was his overleaping ambition to gain more power, and for not being straightforward with Lady Macbeth with what he believes in and not being a good king when he was crowned. This is why Macbeth is still to blame for his downfall.

Alternatively, we can also view that nobody was to blame as only the supernatural can control what was happening, the supernatural leader, Hecate, is the ‘mistress of’ the witches ‘charms’, which might indicate that the witches used to be just ordinary humans, but they must’ve done something to get their powers audience would be intrigued and this time it’s not only the witches involving in Macbeth’s affairs but also their leader, and so the audience might also be concerned about Macbeth’s future. In 3.5, Hecate says that ‘he shall’ be rolled into thinking that he is greater than fate, will mock ‘death’ and think he’s ‘above wisdom, grace and fear’ we could imply that it wasn’t in Macbeth’s hands to control his emotions as those were being controlled as well as his fate, this would maybe mean that even his ambitious nature and thoughts would come from Hecate’s control, so it’s possible that the supernatural was to blame.

Macbeth, the courageous and loyal man who was always by the righteous side and had unconditional love for his wife despite how ridiculous all the social conventions were, never associated himself with doing wrong but unfortunately met his downfall in Dunsinane by Macduff from the interaction of the witches and their prophecies, his wife’s and his ‘vaulting’ ambitions to get more power. Macbeth was only partially responsible for his downfall as he would’ve been able to control his thoughts, wouldn’t have trusted the witches and wouldn’t have paid attention to his wife’s harsh words.


...(download the rest of the essay above)

Discover more:

About this essay:

If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay Sauce, How the witches contribute to Macbeth’s downfall. Available from:<https://www.essaysauce.com/literature-essays/how-the-witches-contribute-to-macbeths-downfall/> [Accessed 11-12-23].

These Literature essays have been submitted to us by students in order to help you with your studies.

* This essay may have been previously published on Essay.uk.com at an earlier date.