The Role of the Three Witches in Macbeth as Generators of Ima

In the following critical essay, one aspect of William Shakespeare\'s Macbeth will be explored and be explained. This aspect is that of the three Weird Sisters. These three "secret, black, and midnight hags" (Mac. IV.i 47), hardly distinguishable as humans, serve a huge dramatic function in the play. Closely looking at Macbeth, one can distinguish the many functions that they serve in the play. The role of the three Weird Sisters in the play Macbeth is to generate imagery, mood, and atmosphere and to serve as the equivocation that will bring Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, to his downfall.

The History of Macbeth
During the reign of James I of England in the 17th century, William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. This history - tragedy was about the Scottish Thane Macbeth who had murdered his cousin King Duncan I to possess the title of king of Scotland. In Macbeth, Shakespeare exposes the internal forces of the human mind that eventually brings the ambitious Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to their downfall. James I was pleased with this masterpiece because it included Banquo, Macbeth\'s companion. In the beginning of the play, Macbeth and Banquo are greeted by three witches, which proclaim Macbeth as king and Banquo as "thou shalt get kings, though thou be none." (Mac. I.iii 67) This is significant through the fact that James was a direct descendant of Banquo.
One might ask why Shakespeare included witches in Macbeth in the first place, not fearing the criticism and the hatred of witchcraft in Europe. An interesting fact of 17th century England that Shakespeare was living in was the overwhelming fascination of the supernatural. Elizabethans of all classes had believed in the power of supernatural agencies. The most sensational aspect of this Elizabethan superstition was the belief in witchcraft, with James I as one of the advocators. (Campbell and Quinn 833) Shakespeare saw this break in traditional values to use the supernatural to create immense dramatic effects. The use of these supernatural agencies can be seen in half of Shakespeare\'s works, being most significant in Macbeth.

Role 1: The Witches and their Effect in Generating Mood and Imagery
Macbeth is a true masterpiece in itself. However, the one great element that makes it so is the imagery. As in any other piece, imagery is what sets the whole mood and perception of the story being told. In Macbeth, the elements of gloom, foreboding, and darkness that reoccurs throughout the play is generated by the supernatural. It is the Three Witches and their actions that render this horrorific atmosphere.
In the beginning of the play, an atmosphere of darkness is already established with the mere presence of the Three Witches. The human state has already assosciated the presence of witches to evil and darkness so often, that the mind subconsciously perceives the evil and dark atmosphere that is intended. As Elizabeth Montagu responds to this fascinating effect of supernatural imagery: "The agency of witches and spirits excites a species of terror, that cannot be affected by the operation of human agency, or by any form or disposition of human things." (Montagu 174) Why then does the human mind respond with this horror? Montagu further explains , "For the known limits of their powers and capacities set certain bounds to our apprehensions, mysterious horrors, undefined terrors, and raised by the intervention of beings whose nature we do not understand, whose actions we cannot control, and whose influence we know not how to escape." (Montagu 174) Then it is the human mind\'s ignorance and awe of supernatural "agents" that set the bounds for our apprehensions. It is the fact that the witches are supernatural and beyond the limit of our comprehensions that make them so discreet, creating a atmosphere of mystery and the darkness and evil that characterize that mystery. When the "interposition of such agents" takes place, "the most salutary of all fears" instills the human mind. (Montagu 173) This explains the remarkable dramatic effect that the few lines of Act 1 Scene 1 and the Witches have in setting a base for the horror and forebodeness that lurks throughout the play and in the audience\'s mind.
At the very beginning, the atmosphere that has been extensively discussed is contributed to the effect