Act I – Scene.iii
With a thunderclap, the three sisters appear.
They have already demonstrated their power by casting a terrible spell upon
a sailor whose wife had offended one of them.
Macbeth, Banquo and two soldiers are riding from the battlefield when they
encounter the sister.
The witches in turn greet Macbeth saying,
“All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Glamis
All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor
All hail Macbeth that shalt be King hereafter”.
Macbeth quizzes the witches, saying “I know that I am Thane of Glamis, but
how can I be Thane of Cawdor, when he still lives?”
Banquo requests that the witches speak to him.
They respond by saying that although he, himself, will not rule in Scotland, he will be father to future generations of Kings.
As quickly as they had appeared, the witches vanish leaving the two captains
Just then, messengers arrive from the King saying that he has been invested
with the title, Thane of Cawdor, thus the first witch’s prophesy has come true.
Like the other works of Shakespeare, Macbeth is full of
imagery and every section of the play has a purpose and meaning.
The witches are firstly involved in cursing a sailor. Shakespeare
intends this to symbolize what is in store for Macbeth’s life, which will be like the stormy sea. This particular sailor is in fact a captain of a ship, and just as he was blown by the storms of the sea, so
will Macbeth be tossed by the storms of life. This prepares the audience for the fact that they will be witnessing unpredictable events, and much confusion.
Shakespeare has already created an atmosphere of foreboding and turmoil.
The appearance of the witches causes amazement to Macbeth and Banquo for
they seem to be not of this world, but from the supernatural world. They are clearly women, but they are bearded, and they appear and vanish like phantoms.
The witches suggest that they are foretelling the future, and that Macbeth
is fated to be Thane of Cawdor and then King.
At this stage, Banquo and Macbeth enjoy equal status, and Banquo is also
keen to have the future predicted for him.
What is in store for Banquo is less clear. No sooner have they made their predictions, then the witches disappear making Macbeth and Banquo wonder if they have been dreaming.
When the messengers arrive to advise Macbeth that he is Thane of Cawdor,
Banquo responds by saying, “What? Can the devil speak true?”
What Macbeth has to consider now is the second prophesy, and whether he
should do anything about making it happen. He clearly realizes that these witches come from the devil and, therefore, he is being tempted to do evil.
Will he resist? This is what the audience will ask themselves.
Macbeth, at this stage, is confused as to what action he should take.
Perhaps the witches are saying that because he has done so much for Scotland this day, he deserves to be King.
If he can make himself believe that “Nothing is, but what is not,” then perhaps he could get away with murder.