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Analysing the Role of the Witches in William Shakespeare's "Macbeth"
William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606. It was one of the greatest tragedies of his many works as a playwright and was written for King James 1st who harboured a morbid and fevered fascination with witchcraft and the supernatural. "Macbeth" explores the themes of evil, ambition, violence, guilt, order and disorder and is based on actual events in the history of Scotland of which James as James 6th was also King. The play itself carries a bad omen as it is considered unlucky to say "Macbeth" when performing it therefore it has been awarded the title "The Scottish Play."
During the 16th and 17th centuries people held an obsession for witchcraft that was unconsciously fed by the ideals of the Puritanical church and the conviction that by persecuting these women morality and religion were being upheld. Witches were held to possess unbelievable powers; predicting the future, flying and killing animals with plagues or poxes. Elderly women who were single and lived with animals were in constant danger from this vicious misogyny. People accused of witchcraft were punished in barbaric ways; they could be hanged or burnt at the stake. King James lived in constant paranoia of witches as in 1590 it was alleged that a group of witches tried to commit regicide and he began to record his investigations and findings on paper. When he was crowned King of England in 1603, he insisted on the immediate publication of "Demonology."
The witches predictions of Macbeth becomingfirst Thane of Cawdor and then King ensures that Macbeth clamours to hear more and he is amazed to hear that they know his name when he does not know of them. This could appear as a mere coincidence but Macbeth believes them to be supernatural as this image is enforced by their haggard appearance.
"So withered and wild in their attire,