MacBeth is a tragedy play written by William Shakespeare that takes place in Scotland during the 11th century. The play details the events of a noble thane MacBeth who became corrupted by supernatural influences and his own selfish ambition to become King. The play shows and warns us that people who turn evil will ultimately be punished much like MacBeth was. Through the elements of the supernatural including the witches which in the 11th century were seen to bring about evil and chaos, the dagger, illusions and ideas of heaven and hell we can see how Shakespeare shows the influences of the supernatural on a pure man. By doing this Shakespeare is also warning his audience of the consequences of turning to evil for success and gives them a reality check as to how they should live out their lives.
One use of elements in the supernatural in MacBeth would be the witches, who start off by saying “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” Shakespeare by using antitheses warns us that things may not always be what they seem. In this case, MacBeth hears great predictions, but they lead him to evil actions. One of them predicts him becoming king. “Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor.” This turns out to become true as the Thane of Cawdor turned his back on King Duncan and helped the enemies, MacDownald the traitor was then killed by MAcBeth and MacBeth was given the title Thane of Cawdor. This led MacBeth to believe in the wretched witches who were know to play tricks on people, leading to misfortune. The other two prophecies then go on to contrast the first as the first one is success as a result of good actions whereas the other is success as a result of doing something bad.
The witches then tell MacBeth he would be king. “All hail MacBeth! That shalt be King hereafter.” This foreshadows MacBeth’s corruptions because as a result of him believing in the witches his ambition grows leading him to kill the King, his friend Banquo and MacDuff’s family. MacBeth the once respected hero of Scotland then says “I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er” MacBeth is far gone he can never return to the way he was before. Through elements of the supernatural we learn that once they influence you, you are changed forever.
Another element of the supernatural is the idea of heaven and hell. This is sen when unexplainable images of a dagger enter MacBeth’s mind, resulting in him believing he need to kill King Duncan. The influences of hell and the witches resulted in MacBeth not being able to face heaven. Due to his sins, MacBeth was unable to pray to God. “Is this a dagger which I see before me?” The witches are putting images inside of MacBeth’s head, the dagger leads the way to King’s room, but MacBeth questions whether the dagger is real or not. The witches are known to cast spells on people, therefore the dagger is an illusive spell cast by the witches to get MacBeth to kill King Duncan. Shakespeare uses internal conflict to show the confusion MacBeth is facing trying to decide what is right and what is wrong.
However, MacBeth falls to evil intent and kills King Duncan out of his strong desire to be King. MacBeth then goes on to kill the drugged servants who awake to see MacBeth’s “hangman’s hands” one of them exclaims “God blesses.” MacBerg then discusses that he could not say “Amen” to their “God bless us” as he was the one in need of blessing because he was committing a grave sun. MacBeth says the “Amen” was “Stuck in my throat” to let us know that he had fallen to evil and could no longer turn to god because he committed the gravest of sins, murder. The King was said to be chosen by God himself, therefore killing him was the highest os sins and would upset the balance of nature. “by th’ clock ’tis day and yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp” This can also be a reference to elements of the supernatural because witches had the magical power of turning the brightest of days into the gloomiest days, representing something that is going to occur on that day.
Through the use of pathetic fallacy, Shakespeare lets us know that MacBeth has upset the balance of nature and by darkness being cast in the light this foreshadows the trail of tragical events that MacBeth directly causes. Through the use of elements of the supernatural in the form of unexplainable, supernatural images of a dagger and the witches controlling the weather it is revealed that you can no longer face god after committing grave sins, as you would have already be sentenced to hell.
From MacBeth we learn that ambition can change your pure morals into morals deeply embedded with evil intent, this is seen through the element of the supernatural that Shakespeare presents which are the three apparitions given to MacBeth by the witches. MacBeth’s ambition led him to kill King Duncan, Banquo and MacDuff’s family, all innocent, good people due to what the witches has told him, even though they are known to trick and play games on humans. MacBeth became arrogant as the supernatural made him believe he was invincible. The first apparition says, “Beware Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife.’ This shows that MacDuff is the one person who will probably kill MacBeth and foreshadows that he will be the one to end his reign of terror.
The second apparition he is told says, “None of woman born shall harm MacBeth.” The witches told MacBeth that nobody in this world can harm him as everyone was born by a woman. This turns out to be dramatically ironic as we find out the MacDuff was born by a c-section therefore could harm MacBeth. The third apparition says. “MacBeth shall never be vanquish’ed be until Great Birnam to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him.” This tells MacBeth the he will never be defeated until the forests move to his castle, which is impossible.
In the 1600’s the witches were not to be trusted, as they had diabolical powers and would often be killed if someone was suspected to be one. “The wood began to move…now near enough:your leagy screens throw down.” Shakespeare used the supernatural to foreshadow Malcolm’s army cutting the trees of Great Birham to use as camouflage to infiltrate MacBeth’s castle defences. “What’s he that was not born of woman? Such a one am I to fear.” In the apparitions, Shakespeare uses equivocation to show MacBeth was blindsided by his ambition and misinterpreted the messages to what he wanted them to mean. MacDuff and Malcolm’s army killed MacBeth and his reign of terror was over, ending with MacDuff becoming King.
Witches in the 1600’s were considered to be real and a major concern in Shakespearean society. Witches were thought to have diabolical powers such as predicting the future, flying and turning day into night and vice versa; which are all seen throughout MacBeth. Most importantly they were known to curse and cast spells among common folk brining about nightmares, allowing demonic possession of anyone. They were also able to raise evil spirits in people, much like they did to Macbeth. “By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.” Through the use of rhyme, Shakespeare shows us the influences of supernatural on MacBeth.
Witches were thought to cast spells in rhyme much like they do in MacBeth using tetrameters. The witches let us know that MacBeth, overtaken by the witches’ influence was coming to do something evil. Witches were also known to cast potions which would were used on people to change their state of mind. “Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.” The witches use the “gall of goat” to make a spell. This can be seen as a biblical allusion in reference to the idea of good vs. evil, with the representation of a goat which is a sacrifice to the devil. The cauldron produces three apparition given to Macbeth, leading him to MacBeth to believe inconceivable ideas and produce evil actions a s a result. In MacBeth, rhyme is used to represent witches and the diabolical spells they cast on MacBeth.
In conclusion, through the use of elements of the supernatural such as the dagger and the witches and the apparitions, spells and potions they make we can see how the supernatural has a negative effect on MacBeth. Shakespeare deliberately places the supernatural in MacBeth to represent evil and the corruption of people. Along with the supernatural a variety of techniques were used to show the progression of evil throughout the storyline in regards to the deceiving appearances of the witches, good vs. evil factors and how ambition lead you down a dark path. The overall message of MacBeth was to be careful of evil because anyone could be influenced and nothing good comes from it.