In the first scene in act one we can see that the witches have some kind of psychic ability from when they predict that Macbeth will win the battle. The witches appear to be having some sport of shared vision. We can tell this from the second quotation- “When the hurlyburly’s done. When the battle’s lost and won.” The witches clearly know that King Duncan’s side will win the battle. They also know when they will meet with Macbeth- “There to meet with Macbeth.” This addresses the theme of witchcraft and is Shakespeare’s way of letting the audience know that the witches have powers.Order now
The scene is set in the dark on the heath- a very open place, and the thunder and lightning in the background ‘top it off’ as such. These key elements are Shakespeare’s way of conveying evil. In Elizabethan times this worked well on the audience who were convinced perhaps unlike a modern audience that these three women were witches from the very first line.
Just before the end of the scene we see that the witches have familiars when the first and third witches call on them. This is also a key element in convincing the audience that the women are witches. The fact that they have familiars makes them seem evil and though perhaps a clichÃ© now would have been very real for an Elizabethan audience.
At the very end of the scene the witches do a sort of chant. “Fair is foul and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.” This implies some sort of evil spell and leaves the audience in suspense until the next time we meet the witches.
The way the witches behave here make us feel disturbed or uncomfortable although there are no descriptions of appearances as yet.
At the opening of scene three again we hear thunder, not only does this create the spooky atmosphere as before, but it also confirms the witches’ predictions about the weather and makes the audience think that they have some sort of power over the weather.
The first witch begins to tell a story of a sailors’ wife towards whom she has taken great umbrage. She tells the others how she will get back at the woman by torturing her husband. She says she will sail in a sieve to him at Aleppo. We then see that the witches can control the weather again when the others say they will help her by sending a wind. The first witch refuses and continues to tell of her wicked ways with the sailor. She possesses a pilot’s thumb which is quite disturbing for the audience and highlights the key theme of witchcraft again.
Suddenly we hear a drum and once again can see that the third witch in particular may be psychic. “A drum, a drum! Macbeth doth come” Then the witches begin to chant a spell. When it is done they say “Peace the charm’s wound up.” This confirms for us that it was a charm or spell and makes the audience wonder what it has achieved.
When Banquo speaks we get the first idea of what the witches look like. “What are these, so withered, and so wild in their attire, that look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ earth, and yet are on’t? This tells us that whatever way the witches looked it was hard for Banquo to tell whether the witches are human or not. This implies that the witches were perhaps ugly or deformed. He tells us that the witches do not speak they merely raise their fingers to their lips. From this action we can tell that this is not normal. Two lords stand in front of the three women and yet they don’t speak. This is mysterious also. Banquo appears to find this strange as would the audience and this is in keeping with the theme of mystery.
Then the witches speak. They tell Macbeth that not only is he Thane of Glamis but also that he will become Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland. Macbeth is startled by these predictions and although he seems frightened also seems to like these ideas. Banquo on the other hand is quite curious as to why they aren’t telling him anything. He asks them “Speak then to me.” The witches begin to talk in riddles and this although slightly confuses Banquo makes him very happy indeed. “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none. So all hail Macbeth and Banquo.” These words keep in line with the psychic theme and even more mystery is added when the witches vanish in to thin air leaving Macbeth and Banquo to ponder the recent news.
Overall in these two scenes we learn a lot about the three witches. That they have powers, how they look, how they behave and what that shows us about them. We also pick up on the key themes and how they are conveyed in the play.