What are the names of the three witches in Macbeth?

Question:

What are the names of the three witches in Macbeth?

Macbeth:

William Shakespeare, one of the world's most famous playwrights, wrote Macbeth at some time prior to its first performance in 1606. The play tells the story of the murder of King Duncan of Scotland.

Appearance of the Witches in the Play:

  • Act I, scene 1: The witches are the first characters to appear in the play. Throughout their cryptic mutual exchange in this opening scene, the most well-known utterance is the alliterative oxymoron: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" (line 11).
  • Act I, scene 3: They prepare for their first encounter with Macbeth by chanting a spell. In some productions, this incantation has been choreographed as a thrice-replicated movement toward each individual witch. These movements are intended to consolidate that witch's power.
  • Act IV, scene 1: They appear for the final time in the play. This is the famous cauldron scene where the enigmatic brewing process conjures apparitions as a prelude to answering Macbeth's questions about his destiny. The thrice-repeated refrain is well-known: "Double, double toil and trouble, / Fire burn and cauldron bubble" (lines 10-11, 20-21, 35-36).

Answer and Explanation:

In Act I, Scene III of Macbeth, the witches are called the 'weyward sisters' in the original 1623 publication of the play. They are also called the 'weird sisters,' in later versions of Macbeth. The witches are not given individual names in the original play.

Significance of the Witches

Though the three weird sisters appear fairly briefly in the play, they are significant to the plot, as their message to Macbeth drives the plot forward. The overwhelming and obsessive ambition that causes Macbeth and his wife to commit murder begins when the witches place the idea of becoming king in the man's head. Though their verses are somewhat cryptic, the message is clear to Macbeth. He begins to think that he could indeed become king of Scotland, and starts to plot how to make this turn of events come about. The witches also serve the purpose of warning the reader or audience member of tragedy to come.


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The Witches in Macbeth: Quotes, Analysis & Prophecy

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Chapter 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.


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