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The Influence of the witches and Lady Macbeth on Macbeth
The combination of the influence of the witches and the influence of Lady Macbeth on Macbeth are what precipitate the tragedy. The witches’ initial prophecies, where they address Macbeth with titles he doesn’t have, influence Macbeth. The apparitions in the play also have an influence on Macbeth because of their ambiguous allure. When Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth’s masculinity she influences him to kill Duncan. Even though Macbeth has doubts, Lady Macbeth convinces him to kill Duncan by calming his fears. Lady Macbeth wants to see her husband succeed and become king; she will stop at nothing to make that possible. The witches’ and Lady Macbeth manipulate and evoke Macbeth to act the way he does in the play because he is susceptible to their influence.
The witches’ deceptive predictions give Macbeth and Lady Macbeth a false sense of what is possible. The witches do not only deceive Macbeth but their predictions tempt him to commit the murder of Duncan. “From the moment that their eyes first met with Macbeth’s, he is spell-bound. That meeting sways his destiny” (Lambs 184). The Weird Sisters are the ones who give Macbeth the impulse to commit the treasonous act. “They are the supernatural beings who encourage Macbeth in his evil inclinations” (Boyce 715). The witches gave their first prophecies to Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 3. They greet Macbeth, knowing who he is before he can introduce himself. The first witch greets him with, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis”(I, iii, 49). This is the title that he already has, and the only shock in that statement is that the witch knew who he was without introduction. The second witch then says to Macbeth, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor” (I, iii, 50). This is an immediate puzzle to Macbeth because he thinks that the “Thane of Cawdor lives a prosperous gentleman” (I, iii, 72). A few lines later, when Macbeth is actually given the title, he replies “why do you dress me in borrowed robes?” (I, iii, 108). The witches seem to have a clairvoyant sense: that they are aware of whatever is happening to people around them. They knew that Macbeth would gain the title of the Thane of Cawdor when they were never at the battlefield themselves. Also, the fact that Macbeth almost immediately receives the title of Cawdor makes him have confidence in the other predictions of the witches. Then the third witch says to Macbeth, “All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” (I, iii, 51). The Witches’ attempts at misinformation succeed not only because they are favorably interpret Macbeth’s future, but also because their revelations came true almost immediately. “Macbeth surely means that knowledge of the witches exceeds what can be known by ordinary humans, for they have a privileged perception of the future, which the later do not” (Ghose 236).
Many people in Macbeth’s time religiously believed in superstitions. “By virtue of their spiritual substance they are acquainted with the causes of things, and, thought the application of wisdom gained by long experience, are able to prognosticate the future events in relation to Macbeth” (Curry 240). Macbeth’s problem is that he is views the predictions literally. Macbeth is only willing to hear what he wants to of the witches predictions, and he believes in the witches because their prophecies are so alluring.
The witches influence Macbeth to want to kill Duncan. They are what Snider calls “instruments of destiny, [who] give Macbeth his impulse” (213) because they give Macbeth the initial temptation to advance his position in life. It wasn’t even Macbeth’s idea, “but the witches’ that he should have the throne. They said it first” (McCarthy 281). If it weren’t for the witches Macbeth would have been fine with his title, the Thane of Glamis. “But the crown was not Macbeth’s pursuit through life: he had never thought of it till it was suggested to him by the witches; he receives their promise, and the subsequent earnest of the truth of it, with calmness” (Whateley 178). In fact the original inclination for Macbeth to be king came from the three witches. They were the first to implant the thought into his head. “Macbeth is deeply impressed [with the witch’s prophecy]. He thinks this over aloud. ‘How can I be Thane of Cawdor when the Thane of Cawdor is alive?’ [cf. I. iii. 72-5] When the mental stumbling-block has been cleared away for him, he turns to the next question. ‘How can I be King when Duncan is alive? The answer comes back; ‘Kill him’ [cf. I. iii. 137-142]” (McCarthy 281). Macbeth’s imagination has been opened to that suggestion all because of the witches. Whateley said that “Macbeth is therefore represented as a man, who’s natural temper would have deterred him from such a design, if he had not been immediately tempted, and strongly impelled to it” (177). Macbeth would not have wanted to kill, or even harm Duncan if it were not for the witch’s prophecy.
The apparitions also have an influence on Macbeth. Macbeth goes back to the witches in Act IV, Scene 1, where Macbeth begs the witches to answer his questions. “Even if the price of receiving an answer from the witch is universal destruction, he still demands to know it”(Ghose 242). There are three apparitions. The first, in the shape of a armed head, tells Macbeth “Beware Macduff, Beware the Thane of Fife” (IV, i, 71-72). Macbeth thanks the apparition and adds that he too was fearful of Macduff. The second Apparition, in the form of a bloody child, tells Macbeth “for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” (IV, i, 80). “Macbeth is not clever; he is taken by surfaces, by appearance. He can not think beyond the usual course of things. ‘None of woman born’ [IV, i, 80]. All men, he says to himself, sagely, are born of woman; Malcolm and Macduff are men; therefore I am safe. This logic leaves out of account the extraordinary: the man brought into the world by Cesarean section” (McCarthy 282). The third Apparition, a child crowned, with a tree in his hand, has news for Macbeth. The spirit tells Macbeth “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him” (IV, i, 92-24). Macbeth sees this as a good prediction because it is impossible for a whole forest to move. He now feels that he is totally unconquerable. “But the answers Macbeth receives from the succession of Apparitions summoned by the witches are riddles or metaphors- bits of language creating the illusion of communicating the truth when what is understood is no more than an interpretation most appealing or consolatory to the listener” (Ghose 242). The apparitions provide Macbeth with a false sense of security that leads up the tragic outcome of the play.
Macbeth is still being controlled by the witches because “Macbeth will be harmed by none of woman born, and will never be vanquished till Birnam wood shall come against him, involves no action of his” (Bradley 215). He is still very vulnerable, although he believes otherwise. The Apparitions urge Macbeth “towards destruction with the pronouncement of half-truths” (Curry 240). The second and third Apparitions lead Macbeth to believe that he is invulnerable. Macbeth believes strongly in the apparitions, “whose predictions seem to promise safety, but actually foretell his destruction” (Boyce 715). Macbeth is motivated by the second and third Apparitions’ promises, that he goes to seek the answer to one more of his questions. He wants to know if Banquo’s descendants will be kings. The witches give Macbeth his answer with another image of a procession of eight kings and Banquo as the last. Macbeth says that this is a “Horrible Sight! (IV, i, 122), but the first witch asks him why he’s so surprised, because, after all, they forewarned him of this in the first prediction. (When the witches first met Macbeth, they told Banquo that he “shalt get kings, though thou be none” (I, iii, 67)). This shows how everything the witch’s have predicted will come true. “We find that the same ambiguous oracles which, by their literal fulfillment, deceive those who confide in them” (Schlegel 184). It is obvious that Macbeth is fated to be doomed. “Our essential point is clear— namely, that the witches foretell the future, and with an accuracy that does not fail in the very smallest particular” (Rmelin 202). Because of his tragic fate, Macbeth can never escape the influence of the witches and their accurate predictions of the future.
Lady Macbeth influences Macbeth to kill Duncan. She serves much the same role as the witches do in manipulating Macbeth to murder Duncan, but her influence is of a more frightening nature. She uses her sta
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