An Essay on the Supernatural Influences in Shakespeare's Macbeth
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Supernatural is an influential theme that is found through majority of Shakespeare's plays. In Shakespeare's Macbeth, many references to supernatural activity can be found throughout this book, therefore making it crucial for the storyline.
Webster defines the word "supernatural" as 1:Â of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially:Â of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil. 2 a:Â departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of natureb:Â attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit).Macbeth is a literary tragedy with the purpose of arousing pity and fear so that the audience will be carried through an abundance of emotions. Tragedy is marked by the choices which the main character makes. Throughout this story, Macbeth's decisions are greatly influenced by many elements of the unexplainable supernatural world, causing his actions to be somewhat unpredictable majority of the time.
The first major scene involving the supernatural world begin with the introduction to the three witches, this appeared in Act 1 Scene 1.Â The witches meet on a moor and they discussed their plans of where to meet Macbeth. Â Webster defines witches as, "1:Â one that is credited with usually malignant supernatural powers; especially:Â a woman practicing usually black witchcraft often with the aid of a devil or familiar :Â sorceress â€” compare warlock 2:Â an ugly old woman :Â hag 3:Â a charming or alluring girl or woman 4:Â a practitioner of Wicca." The supernatural was mentioned in definition 1, therefore, the three witches were also part of the supernatural elements in the play Macbeth. These witches had a rather large impact throughout Macbeth, and they also proved to be a very important element of this story. The witches serve as a chorus in this play, which in a nutshell means that they are the characters that frame the play by giving us a taste of what is about to happen next before it happens, they are the punctuation of this play. At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth the idea of witches was something that was taken very seriously by his audience â€“ people believed that witches were real beings that lived in secrecy among the good, Christian citizens. Witches were "the spawn of the devil," and so this scene would have been very likely to scare, and excite Shakespeare's audience, and as it was mentioned earlier. Shakespeare uses the supernatural in many other subtler ways is this scene â€“ the witches can be found on an empty moor, for example, and there is a thunder and lightning storm taking place. This makes a huge difference â€“ it brings out the horror and evil in the witches and ads to the tension and the full horror of this scene.Â The opening scene is vital, to any play. Shakespeare has used the supernatural well, to produce an exiting and sinister scene. Act 1 Scene 3 is a vital scene, in terms of the supernatural. It is much longer than the fairly short opening scene. This scene opens with the witches discussing their needs, since they had last gathered. They've all been committing evil things, for example, the second witch killed the husband of a woman that would not give her chestnuts, pretty ridiculous, no? Once again, the witches have assembled on a moor, and a storm is taking place, adding to the sinister and eerie mood of the scene. Their actions, or what they say, also contribute to this mood â€“ they have all been committing spine-chilling, evil deeds. They wait to meet Macbeth again, but they already know he is coming.Â
The supernatural, appears without the influence of the witches in Act 3, Scene 4. This is the scene where the ghost of Banquo returns to haunt Macbeth at Macbeth's Dinner Party. Macbeth can see the ghost and this leads onto the debate about whether the ghost is merely Macbeth's guilty conscience catching up with him, or whether the ghost appears to Macbeth and hides itself from everyone else in the room. Macbeth is obviously terrified by the ghost. This is shown when he speaks to it, and says "What man dare, I dare: Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear, The arm'd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger; take any shape but that" He shows his fear of the apparition here, saying that he would rather face a Russian Bear, a rhinoceros or a Hyrcan tiger than the apparition. It is genuine fear. The ghost has a large dramatic affect on this scene, and is very vital. If the ghost is Macbeth's conscience then it shows how Macbeth is beginning to crack and this could also signal the beginning of the end for Macbeth, as after this he decides to visit the witches. Banquo's ghost haunting Macbeth can be compared to
Julius Caesar, where Caesar's ghost haunts Brutus.
Act 4 Scene 1 is the last time we see the witches. Macbeth has decided to visit them. Shakespeare's audience would have seen this as a terrible act â€“ the witches are evil, and they would have believed that under no circumstances should you go and visit them â€“ but Macbeth does.
At the opening of the scene, the witches are making a potion, using hideous ingredients, such as the liver of a Jew, baboon's blood and the nose of a Turk. These ingredients are disgusting, reinforcing just how evil the witches are. Another interesting point is that just before Macbeth enters, the second witch describes him as wicked â€“ these evil witches are now describing Macbeth as being wicked. Macbeth demands they tell him the future. At this point Macbeth looks to be in control â€“ he is now using the supernatural to his own advantage. Three more apparitions are summoned and they each give Macbeth a prediction. They tell Macbeth to beware of Macduff. They tell Macbeth that no man born of a woman will ever harm Macbeth. Finally, they tell Macbeth that he will not be defeated until Great Birnham Wood moves to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth takes these predictions as a good sign. However he presses on and wants to know more. The witches try to defend him here â€“ they tell him he knows too much already, but Macbeth doesn't stop. He wants to know if any son of Banquo will ever rule Scotland. Another apparition occurs of all the kings of Scotland, then a mirror, then Banquo. This is the news that defeats Macbeth â€“ the control Macbeth did have has withered away to no control. This is the last of the witches.
Though it is known that the witches did exist at the beginning of the play, when Macbeth talks to Lennox, Lennox did not see the witches. Lennox brings the news that Macduff has fled to England. Macbeth then decides to murder all of Macduffs family, for no other reason than the simple reason that he can. This is pure evil, showing the change in Macbeth from when Lady Macbeth had to persuade him to murder King Duncan; officially, from this moment on, Macbeth could be considered a cold blooded killer.
Along with the supernatural influence from the witches, there were scenes where three apparitions appeared. The first Apparition tells an eager Macbeth that he should fear Macduff, by saying, "Beware of Macduff."Another supernatural apparition appeared to Macbeth which stated that no person born of woman shall harm Macbeth. And still, there is one more apparition to talk about, the third Apparition tells Macbeth he has nothing to fear until "Great Birnam Wood" moves to "High Dunsinane Hill" near his castle."
The theme of the supernatural in Macbeth is vital to the storyline of the play. The witches are one of the biggest aspects of the supernatural in the play â€“ and their influence on Macbeth's actions, and are eventually his downfall.
The supernatural events, which happen in the play, lead to questioning whether these events are actually caused by evil powers or Macbeth's paranoia and vaulting ambition, which leads him to believe these things are taking place.
The trend of the supernatural in Macbeth portrays evil powers, though also arouses thought from the audience, as desired in a literary tragedy, about whether these events take place, or are a product of Macbeth imagination and paranoia.