I am going to be discussing the importance of the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth by focusing on three main scenes
; The prologue
; Act 1 Scene 3
; Act 4 Scene 1
These are the main parts of the play where to witches appear I am going to leave out act 3 scene 5 although it includes the witches it is not recognized as part of Shakespeare’s work
And Polanski has also left it out of his production
There is some very historical importance about the witches
The fact that in the time this play was being written people where being accused of being witches and where being burned for it so people would have been very scared and aware of witches and there evil powers they would have been very intimidating. Now day’s witches are seen as a fun thing to dress up as at Halloween so polanski would have had a hard time scary a modern audience. He don’t not use typical things like thunder and lightning instead he used fog and a misty settings when the witches are around, sometimes rain
The story begins with thunder this would be very scary to a Shakespearean audience and it suggests to the audience and dangerous and uncontrollable power where as in Polanski’s version he begins with no thunder and just a misty rainy sort of weather. They start talking about where they should meet Macbeth notice how they already know his name showing there power and knowledge. In Shakespeare’s version he says that the witches appear in an open place this shows that they have nothing to hide and they don’t care what people think showing that they have power so they are not afraid.
For Polanski’s version he picked the open place to be a beach as it represents the witches power over all the main elements water, land and air. The misty air adds a mysterious feel to the scene, as the witches are very mysterious themselves. In polanski’s version of the play the witches start of by digging a hole and setting in it a noose this could be to represent that death will follow in this play then we see a forearm being set into the hole beside the noose with a dagger in it’s grasps this represent that killing will be in the play and the hand would be very scary for most modern day audiences
They cover the hole and pour blood on it this is showing of the blood and gore to come then they spit on it and begin to chant this show the witches abnormalities so polanski has added these things to show the main plot of the story and what all is to come. When they all say ”Fair is foul, and foul is fair” this is a main quote from the play it is the basis for all that happens in the play showing that Macbeth on the outside is good but on the inside he has dark evil secrets.
Shakespeare does not give the witches names he numbers them 1 to 3 this suggests that they are not human enough to be given a name it also shows ranks in the witches (higher powered witches). The witches are described as withered and worn and very ugly and very hard to tell if they are male or female. They are portrayed to be very ragged and dirty and in polanski’s version they are just that Macbeth calls them hags this means very ugly. Polanski gets across the idea of ranks by having them being older and younger the oldest being the most powerful in Polanski’s version an old crooked stick is used to mark the dug hole the stick is just like the witches appearance and is also significant as later in the play birnam wood plays a big part and she is using a wooden stick they later use twisted riddles (twisted stick). They tend to wear black clothes to show dark magic. In polanski’s version he uses screeching sounds
Act 1 scene 3
In this scene the first prophecy by the witches is made and it is where a lot of the witches descriptions come from. As Macbeth and banquo describe them as very ugly and dirty and they cant decided what they are a man or a woman this shows how old and dirty they are and in polanski’s version he has shown this very well by making them very wrinkled and unclean their hair is uncombed and ragged just like there clothes which are also like this. When the witches first meet Macbeth they already know everything about him even though they have never meet this is showing the mysterious powers of the witches
Act 4 scene 1
In polanski’s version it starts with very out of tune background music there is heavy rain. Shakespeare however chooses to have thunder like in the prologue the witches know that Macbeth is coming this shows there all powerful black magic
When he comes into where the witches are they are all naked in polanski’s version and this is showing that they are not trying to hide anything they are willing to bear all. Macbeth try’s to order the witches around but they just ignore him because they are more powerful than Macbeth even though he is the king of Scotland when he enters the deep pit the witches are making a foul potion with all sorts of disgusting things in it like guts and body parts of humans and animals then when Macbeth asks for information they get hi to drink the potion from a chalice which is a almost holy item so it is as if they have power of the holiness then Macbeth gets four apparitions appearing in front of him the first one is a armored head appearing that tells him to fear Macduff.
In polanski’s version Macbeth looks into the cauldron that is being used to make the potion and he sees his own face staring back at him then he sees it roll away beheaded then the next apparition he sees is a boy holding a tree saying no man born of a woman naturally can destroy Macbeth in Polanski’s version it is a small boy in Armour grown into a fully grown man in Armour this then falls to the ground and snakes come out of it the snakes symbolizing the evil feeling that is constantly growing around Macbeth then it goes to another apparition that tells Macbeth that he will not fall until birnam wood moves to dunsaine in the video it is too men that seem to be mad laughing while they tell him that that he wont fall till birnam wood moves to dunsaine.