Saturday, 9 July 2016


Role of Supernatural in "Macbeth"

     In "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare, the supernatural plays a large role in spawning an atmosphere of evil, foreshadowing future events, and defying earthly laws so that the play itself is not within the realm of what we know as common knowledge. The three manipulative witches, the goddess Hecate, the three prophetic apparitions, the floating dagger that appears before Macbeth, the ghost of Banquo, and the unnatural events are all perfect examples of how the supernatural plays an important role. These elements are key not only to the plot but also in describing the intensity of a situation as well as invoking fear, horror, mystery, evil, and even a hint of death to the viewer. 
1. The Three Witches
     The three Witches or "Weird Sisters" play a pivotal role in "Macbeth". Macbeth is obsessed with their prophecies, and repeatedly consults with them. The witches also represent a struggle between the supernatural and the natural world that is at the heart of Macbeth. On the one hand, it is Macbeth's actions that create the bloody chaos of the play. On the other, it is the witches' prophecy that first motivates him to consider the murder of king as a way to the throne. Moreover, the witches are an instrument in creating the overall tone and mood of the play, notably in the first act, when they inform the audience amid the crash of thunder that "fair is foul/foul is fair".
2. Goddess Hecate
     Hecate is the goddess of witchcraft, and one can view her as the ruler of the Three Witches. In Act 3, Scene 5, Hecate appears before the Witches and demands to know why she has been excluded from their meetings with Macbeth. She tells them Macbeth will be back to know his destiny and she proclaims he will see apparitions that will, "by the strength of their illusion" lead him to conclude that he is safe. She plays an important role in the play because of the lines she utters at the end of the scene: "And you all know, security/Is mortals' chiefest enemy". She reveals in these lines that Macbeth's belief the he in untouchable will ultimately result in his downfall.
3. The Three Apparitions
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble
     The Three Weird Sisters gather around their cauldron in a cave and conjure three ghostly apparitions that foretell the bloody fate of Macbeth. The first is an armed head, summoned to warn Macbeth that Macduff is coming back to Scotland to ruin him. The second one is a bloody child and it tells Macbeth that no man born of a woman can do him harm. This gives Macbeth great confidence. The third apparition is that of a child wearing a crown and holding a tree. It declares: "Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until/Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinance hill/Shall come against him".
4. The Floating Dagger
     When Macbeth is about to kill King Duncan, he sees the vision of a floating dagger; either in the heat of the moment or through some supernatural visitation. It is pointed towards the King's chamber and its handle is towards Macbeth. The blade of the dagger is covered with blood, which obviously means Macbeth is feeling remorse, even before committing the crime. The dagger, in fact, is a symbol of conscience. Its floating in the air is representative of those things which will happen ins the future. The King has not yet been murdered, but the dagger foreshadows his death. Macbeth has not yet committed the unthinkable, yet his conscience is already riddled with guilt. Thus the dagger symbolizes what will happen, and the darkness that will follow.
5. The Ghost of Banquo
     Macbeth holds a banquet to celebrate Banquo's coronation but as he goes to sit down in his seat, he sees Banquo's ghost sitting in his place covered with blood. This may be another case of Macbeth's hallucinations, but the play script that Shakespeare has written, he actually states "Enter Banquo's Ghost". It is said that whilst this play was acted out, an actor dressed in white came on stage as a supposed ghost. This proves that there was meant to be an actual spirit of Banquo there, meaning there was a definite supernatural element. Shakespeare included this, as he needed to set the atmosphere to a spookier environment to fit in with the withes. The appearance of Banquo's ghost at the banquet is a reminder of Macbeth's guilt and foreshadows even more death to come.
6.The Unnatural Events
     Just before the discovery of Duncan's murder, Lennox reports unusual occurrences in the night -- the weather was wild, chimneys were blown off house tops, wailing and screams of death as well as "speaking in tongues" were heard. The owl, a harbinger of death, cried out all night and took down a mighty falcon, and there was an earthquake. A few days pass, Ross and Old Man discuss more unnatural events. Ross comments on the eclipse taking place. Finally, and perhaps the most frightening, is Ross's report about the King's horse. The most noble of beasts have become wild, breaking down their stalls as if they were at "war with mankind". In short, some supernatural power is driving all these events.
     The supernatural is an integral part of the structure of the plot. Each incident in the play is led by supernatural. The supernatural provides a catalyst for action, an insight into character, and augments the impacts of many key scenes. It results quite well with the respect of the unknown. Without the witches, the goddess Hecate, the apparitions, the floating dagger, the ghost and unnatural events, "Macbeth" would have been a dull and tiresome play. In fact, these are the supernatural elements that raise this tragedy to a cosmic dimension. In short, the supernatural has been presented both in outward and inward from and incorporates with the dark and gloomy atmosphere prevailing throughout the play.

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