Archive for March 11th, 2013

During the time of William Shakespeare, particularly in the early 1600s, witchcraft and magic sparked into a widespread phenomenon and source of fascination in England. King James I was extremely superstitious and integrated observation and written research of the phenomena eagerly into his life. Many suggest Shakespeare wrote his bloody Scottish play, Macbeth, knowing that it would gain the eager, entertained audience of the reigning monarch with its supernatural themes. Indeed, the dark and mystical issues form a pivotal role in the driving force and motivations concerning the entire play. Without magic behind the ensuing madness, it would be yet another cold-hearted bloodbath plot commonly found in the entertainment world.

The witches and their leader, Hecat are knowledgeable of the past, present, and future revolving around the fates of the mortals in Macbeth. One could even consider them to be the puppeteers responsible for the tragic events that occurred and Macbeth’s descent into insanity, later followed by his wife. The three weïrd sisters proclaim to Macbeth and his companion Banquo that Macbeth will be king and later the heirs of Banquo. This plants the seed of greed and murder within Macbeth’s heart and mind that soon will overtake his reason. Banquo comments on the witches’ power of persuasion, saying, “And oftentimes, to win us to our harm / The instruments of darkness tell us truths, / Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s / In deepest consequence” (Shakespeare 1.3.123-126). He believes in their prophecies yet makes note of the ease in which to be seduced by dark power. Hecat, the leader of the witches and goddess of witchcraft, also declares their control over the situation:

As by the strength of their illusion

Shall draw him on to his confusion.

He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear

His hopes ‘bove wisdom, grace, and fear;

And you all know, security

Is mortals’ chiefest enemy.


With this declaration of meddling responsibility, the audience sees the inevitability of the murders to follow that are beyond Macbeth’s control. The witches prey upon his weak and impressionable mind as he continues to seek them out for more prophecies and answers, addicted to having his fate planned by another rather than thinking for himself and making his own future.  Every action he takes and person he kills stems from the witches’ words fed to him. This magical element behind the murders creates more intrigue and fascination for those observing from the outside.

The hallucinations and visions of the paranormal incorporate an element of sympathy for the infected minds of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth that would otherwise be lost. As he sneaks in the night to kill King Duncan, Macbeth has delusions of a bloody dagger as a precursor to his madness and paranoia. The ghost of Banquo appears at a banquet held in the recently crowned Macbeth’s honor, bringing his insanity to the public eye. In the end, Lady Macbeth’s mind succumbs to a dreamlike state in which she perpetually envisions blood on her hands, sleepwalks, and reveals their part in the murders without awareness. These add qualities that bring out their human frailty as a contrast to their portrayal as tyrannical and barbaric souls. The magic and paranormal aspects in this play bring a new perspective to the motivations behind the characters.


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