Are the witches in Macbeth good, bad, or neutral?
Macbeth, also known by its full title, The Tragedy of Macbeth, is a 1606 play by English playwright and poet William Shakespeare (April 26, 1564 - April 23, 1616). Macbeth is a Scottish general who receives a prophecy from three witches that he will be king. This leads him to murder King Duncan, and claim the throne. The witches have been represented in art and film, and were influences on other stories featuring magic, such as the 'Harry Potter series.
Answer and Explanation:
In the primary plot of the play, the murder of Duncan, the witches seem to operate in a realm of moral ambiguity. They don't direct Macbeth to kill the king, or provide him any clear vision of the future, but rather suggest his fate and actions. Their position seems to be one of, if not impartiality, indifference, as illustrated by this quote in the first act: ''Fair is foul, and foul is fair / Hover through the fog and filthy air'' The true intent of the witches becomes more clear in their most famous line, though. ''Double, double toil and trouble.'' Here the witches make obvious that trouble is their chief ambition. We see it also in their behavior as Macbeth first meets them. The First Witch has been slighted by the wife of a sailor, who refused to give the witch some of the chestnuts she was eating. As revenge, the First Witch decides to trouble the sailor by denying him sleep ''Sleep shall neither night nor day / Hang upon his penthouse lid'' and frustrating his ship with a violent sea. This vindictiveness is the biggest clue to the true nature of the witches, which is manifestly cruel. They are generally cruel to animals (The Second Witch says she's been 'killing swine') and of course people, using body parts such as a 'pilot's thumb' as ingredients in their spells.
Learn more about this topic:
fromChapter 4 / Lesson 7
Read about ‘’Macbeth’’’s witches, some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. Explore the witches’ quotes and lines and see some analyses of their prophecies.