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Laurel
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

Sorry I missed that. When you and Benedick get into your long conversations I tend to pass out for a while. :smileyhappy: :smileysurprised:



Choisya wrote:
Yes indeed Laurel, I am arguing (elsewhere) that Shakespeare changed the characterisation of the witches from the original Three Fates or Weird Sisters to Three Witches because it suited King James better. In a 1610 production they were described as 'nymphs or faeries'.




Laurel wrote:
I don't remember the three fates brewing things from thumbs and eyes and pieces of frogs and lizards, as these three beings do later in the play. They just spun ropes of yarn.



Choisya wrote:
I tried to argue this earlier me6395 when saying that the Weird Sisters were symbolic of the Three Fates and not witches at all (see my earlier posts on this). In this case, it was what they foretold which put the ideas into Macbeth's head, not their 'bewitching' of him. However, as the stage directions say 'Enter 3 witches' folks seem to conclude that there are indeed witches and therefore that they can cast spells. Certainly the Elizabethans would have believed in the power of witchcraft, just as King James I, for whom the play was written and performed, did and so Shakespeare may have intended this effect, even though he used the imagery of the Three Fates.




mef6395 wrote:
My interpretation is that the Weird Sisters did not bewitch Macbeth or cast a spell on him or anything of that sort. It was more of Macbeth allowing himself to be swayed by the Sisters' mysterious words.

I would like to know what Shakespeare would have wanted his audience to believe and what the Elizabethan public itself would have understood with regard the dynamics between the Sisters and Macbeth. Would they have thought that the Sisters had bewitched Macbeth?




Choisya wrote:
Are we meant to suppose that the Weird Sisters had 'bewitched' Macbeth and that he was under their spell? That he couldn't help doing what he did? Would the Elizabethans have believed this?
















"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Choisya
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

This wasn't me and Benedick it was me and Choisya:smileyvery-happy:.



Laurel wrote:
Sorry I missed that. When you and Benedick get into your long conversations I tend to pass out for a while. :smileyhappy: :smileysurprised:



Choisya wrote:
Yes indeed Laurel, I am arguing (elsewhere) that Shakespeare changed the characterisation of the witches from the original Three Fates or Weird Sisters to Three Witches because it suited King James better. In a 1610 production they were described as 'nymphs or faeries'.
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Laurel
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

Choisya and Choisya, you need to get back over to the Dostoevsky forum! :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy:



Choisya wrote:
This wasn't me and Benedick it was me and Choisya:smileyvery-happy:.



Laurel wrote:
Sorry I missed that. When you and Benedick get into your long conversations I tend to pass out for a while. :smileyhappy: :smileysurprised:



Choisya wrote:
Yes indeed Laurel, I am arguing (elsewhere) that Shakespeare changed the characterisation of the witches from the original Three Fates or Weird Sisters to Three Witches because it suited King James better. In a 1610 production they were described as 'nymphs or faeries'.



"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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LizzieAnn
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Re: The Weird Sisters

I thought that was part of the curse that they were putting on the sailor because immediately before that the First Witch is talking about what she's going to do to & with the sailor. I took it to mean that they were quickly finishing up the curse to put in place on the sailor before Macbeth came on.

The definition I read for posters was for speedy travelers so I assumed that tied in with the sailor and that "wound up" meant completed. Looking at it the other way, I see how it could be that Macbeth is spelled. But couldn't it also be a spell to "protend"? To tell the sisters' what Macbeth's destiny is. You're right, it is ambiguous -- my interpretation is so different. I told you that I was in over my head with Shakespeare!



Everyman wrote:

I think that's ambiguous, perhaps intentionally. Consider carefully their speech in 1.3:

The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about:
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace! the charm's wound up.

And immediately thereafter Macbeth and Banquo enter. The witches call him by his three titles, and then Banquo says

Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear
Things that do sound so fair? I' the name of truth,
Are ye fantastical, or that indeed
Which outwardly ye show? ...
That he seems rapt withal...

First, what is the charm that's wound up? Isn't this preparing to cast a spell?

And then, while Banquo can act normally, even after he is told that he will get kings. But Macbeth is instantly struck, starts, is fantastical, rapt. Is this just surprise? Or is it more than surprise, and have they indeed cast charms on him?

I agree that the language isn't definitive. But I think it's certainly suggestive.

Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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Choisya
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

It was significantly rewritten by Shakespeare and others - Ive posted about this elsewhere.




Everyman wrote:


Choisya wrote:
Yes indeed Laurel, I am arguing (elsewhere) that Shakespeare changed the characterisation of the witches from the original Three Fates or Weird Sisters to Three Witches because it suited King James better. In a 1610 production they were described as 'nymphs or faeries'.

this would seem to require rewriting quite a bit of the play, including all the parts with the familiars (an sttribute of witches but not the Fates), the role of Hecate, the spells they cast, the making of witches' brew, etc.


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Choisya
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

I have reading the Dosteovsky and am reading the exchanges but somehow can't get into the discussion.




Laurel wrote:
Choisya and Choisya, you need to get back over to the Dostoevsky forum! :smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy:



Choisya wrote:
This wasn't me and Benedick it was me and Choisya:smileyvery-happy:.



Laurel wrote:
Sorry I missed that. When you and Benedick get into your long conversations I tend to pass out for a while. :smileyhappy: :smileysurprised:



Choisya wrote:
Yes indeed Laurel, I am arguing (elsewhere) that Shakespeare changed the characterisation of the witches from the original Three Fates or Weird Sisters to Three Witches because it suited King James better. In a 1610 production they were described as 'nymphs or faeries'.






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Choisya
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Re: The Weird Sisters

[ Edited ]
It is a charm not a curse and the charm was for sea travellers, as you say LizzieAnn. The mention of a sailor is thought to be a reference to the voyage that James I made when he went to Denmark to meet his bride-to-be. There were bad storms on each crossing and this was put down to witchraft:-

'Scotland's witch-hunting had its origins in the marriage of King James to Princess Anne of Denmark. Anne's voyage to Scotland for the wedding met with a bad storm, and she ended up taking refuge in Norway. James traveled to Scandinavia and the wedding took place in at Kronborg Castle in Denmark. After a long honeymoon in Denmark, the royal newlyweds encountered terrible seas on the return voyage, which the ship's captain blamed on witches. When six Danish women confessed to having caused the storms that bedeviled King James, he began to take witchcraft seriously. Back in Scotland, the paranoid James authorized torture of suspected witches. Dozens of condemned witches in the North Berwick area were burned at the stake in what would be the largest witch-hunt in British history.'






LizzieAnn wrote:
I thought that was part of the curse that they were putting on the sailor because immediately before that the First Witch is talking about what she's going to do to & with the sailor. I took it to mean that they were quickly finishing up the curse to put in place on the sailor before Macbeth came on.

The definition I read for posters was for speedy travelers so I assumed that tied in with the sailor and that "wound up" meant completed. Looking at it the other way, I see how it could be that Macbeth is spelled. But couldn't it also be a spell to "protend"? To tell the sisters' what Macbeth's destiny is. You're right, it is ambiguous -- my interpretation is so different. I told you that I was in over my head with Shakespeare!



Everyman wrote:

I think that's ambiguous, perhaps intentionally. Consider carefully their speech in 1.3:

The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about:
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace! the charm's wound up.

And immediately thereafter Macbeth and Banquo enter. The witches call him by his three titles, and then Banquo says

Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear
Things that do sound so fair? I' the name of truth,
Are ye fantastical, or that indeed
Which outwardly ye show? ...
That he seems rapt withal...

First, what is the charm that's wound up? Isn't this preparing to cast a spell?

And then, while Banquo can act normally, even after he is told that he will get kings. But Macbeth is instantly struck, starts, is fantastical, rapt. Is this just surprise? Or is it more than surprise, and have they indeed cast charms on him?

I agree that the language isn't definitive. But I think it's certainly suggestive.



Message Edited by Choisya on 03-09-200709:28 PM

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stratford
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Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: The Weird Sisters

Thank you, Everyman, for this illumination. Personally, I could not figure out what all the hullabaloo was about regarding the witch vs. non-witch debate.
1. The Dramatis Personae has HECATE and WITCHES.
2. Shakespeare’s stage directions have WITCHES.
3. Their dialogue is preceded by FIRST WITCH, SECOND WITCH, THIRD WITCH.
4. They do “witchy” things.
5. They meet up with Hecate. The following is from Wikipedia, which I have never used before, so I have no idea how authoritative it is.
Hecate
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hecate, Hekate (Hekátē), or Hekat was originally a goddess of the wilderness and childbirth, naturalized early in Thrace, but originating among the Carians of Anatolia, [1] the only region where theophoric names are attested [2], and where Hekate remained a great goddess into historical times, at Lagina. The monuments to Hekate in Phrygia and Caria are numerous but of late date. [3] Popular cults venerating her as a mother goddess integrated her persona into Greek culture as Ἑκάτη. In Ptolemaic Alexandria she ultimately achieved her connotations as a goddess of sorcery and her role as the 'Queen of Ghosts', in which guise she was transmitted to post-Renaissance culture. Today she is often seen as a goddess of witchcraft and Wicca. One aspect of Hecate is represented in the Roman Trivia.
The earliest inscription is found in late archaic Miletus, close to Caria, where Hecate is a protector of entrances. [4]
6. In Act IV, Scene I, we not only have “Enter the three WITCHES,” but in the following column, “Enter HECATE and the other three WITCHES.”
7. “The date of ‘Macbeth,’ like that of many of Shakespeare’s plays, is not beyond all dispute, but there are good reasons for believing it was written in 1605-06 and was performed at Hampton Court in 1606 before James I of England and his brother-in-law, Christian of Denmark. The play, indeed, seems to have been written to please James (and perhaps thus to further the fortunes of Shakespeare’s theatrical company, which in 1603 had been named the King’s Men).”
8. “First, ‘Macbeth’ is indebted to the fact that a Scot had acceded to the English throne. More specifically, James I had written a book called ‘Demonology,’ and in it Shakespeare could have learned, for example, that witches can foretell the future. If Shakespeare wanted to please or honor James, who was supposedly descended from Banquo, he would naturally write a play about Scottish history showing James’ ancestor in a favorable light and making use of James’ interest in witchcraft.”
It seems to be fairly clear to me anyway that Shakespeare is trying to tell us that these are witches.



Everyman wrote:


Choisya wrote:
But if they do not cast any spells, what claims can we make about them being witches? That just makes them 'fates'.

Witches don't have to cast spells. The primary aspect of witches is that they make a pact with the devil and get special powers in exchange. Those powers could include the ability to foretell the future.

But the fact is that the witches DO cast spells. In 1.3, they talk about what they have been doing. One has been killing swine, another is going to cast a spell on the seaman whose wife wouldn't give her chestnuts. The fates, as far as I'm aware, wouldn't have engaged in such activities. They might not have cast any spells relative to Macbeth (though I'll talk about that in another post), but they did cast spells relative to others, presumably to cement their witchery with the audience and give James something to rub his hands over.

Then in 4.1, they gather round the cauldron and make a brew including poisoned entrails, toad, fnake fillet, newt eye, frog's toe, dog's tongue... As Laurel pointed out, this is the activity of witches, not of the Fates.

And then, still in 4.1, they call forth three Apparitions. I'm not aware of the Fates ever relying on the calling forth of other beings.

And to top it off, Hecate comes in. She was a pre-Christian goddess, the goddess of darkness, night, and their terrors (which were quite real in a pre-electric, pre-gas lamp society), but not one of the fates. But during Christianity, because of her connection with dark and night, she was taken to be the goddess of witches and witchcraft. And S's audience would certainly have recognized her as the goddess of witches, not as having anything to do with the fates.

Indeed, Hecate (3.5) tells the three witches she is "the mistress of your charms / The close contriver of all harms..." These are witch words, not Fates word.

Finally, the Fates were pre-Christian with no carry-over into Christian doctrine that I'm aware of, and therefore would not likely have been featured in a play of that era, particularly since it's pretty well agreed that Shakespeare was playing to James's interest in demonology.

It seems pretty clear to me, looking at all the activity of the witches (and James's interest in them) that Shakespeare intended them to be seen as witches, not just as the Fates.


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Everyman
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Re: The Weird Sisters


Choisya wrote:
I have posted elsewhere about this. Apparently Shakespeare changed his manuscruipt quite a lot and there is evidence that the play was performed with nymphs and not witches in 1610


As far as I know, that's just from one viewer's journal. Simon Forman did describe them as "nymphas and fairies," but that was of a 1611 production, which would have been the version adapted to show to James (the play was apparently written in 1606, most of my sources say.)

We know that Holinshed referred to "creatures of the elderwood . . . nymphs or fairies" in his descriptions of the history of Duncan. It's quite likely that Dr. Forman knew his Holinshed; since the theaters did not have programs at the time which would have identified them, he may have just picked that up out of Holihshed.

As we have seen, Shakespeare deviated significantly from Holinshed. A nymph or fairy doesn't have the tragic power that Shakespeare needed for his play, so it seems quite plausible that he would darken them into witches, as he darkened Macbeth from a killer in battle to a murderer in cold blood of a sleeping man.

The description
What are these,
So wither’d and so wild in their attire,
That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ earth,
hardly seems to describe a nymph or fairy, who are generally portrayed more like the fairies in MND, delicate, light, happy.

And even if they had been nymphs or fairies, those are no more the Fates than witches would be. So it doesn't bring us any closer to the assertion you've made earlier that you think they were the three Fates.

Frankly, I don't understand why you're so resistant to their simply being witches as Shakespeare describes them and as the text seems pretty clearly to support.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Everyman
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Re: The Weird Sisters



stratford wrote:
Personally, I could not figure out what all the hullabaloo was about regarding the witch vs. non-witch debate....It seems pretty clear to me, looking at all the activity of the witches (and James's interest in them) that Shakespeare intended them to be seen as witches, not just as the Fates.

Excellent analysis. Right on target.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Choisya
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Re: The Weird Sisters : Middleton's Witches & Hecate

[ Edited ]
Stratford: The 'hullabaloo' is well documented and I have given the references below elsewhere:smileyhappy: Dr Forman, who saw the first Globe producton in 1610 reports that he saw 'nymphs and fairies', not witches. The First Folio only says Enter Three Witches and does not have First Witch, Second Witch and Third Witch and the witch scene with Hecate was added by Middleton, not Shakespeare. Davenant also added a dancing witch scene using Middleton's songs. Frank Kermode says that the scenes with Hecate are 'spurious' and other commentators have said that Hecate is not within the Celtic tradition and is unlikely to have been used in a Scottish play. However, the 'couldron of rebirth' is well known in Celtic shamanism - warriors slain in battle are put into it to emerge alive and Celtic tales of the three fates/destinies predate both Greek and Christian ones: 'The Celtic tradition has a 'powerful image of a three-fold feminine force, the Triple Goddess. As three who are one, this single deity encompassed the aspects of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Linked with the phases of the moon she symbolized the perpetual circle of life, death, and rebirth. She was among the first of many triads that symbolized life's cycles.' In a play given before a new Scottish king it is more likely that Celtic symbolism was used rather than the Greek and Shakespeare's plays, in any case, are full of Celtic imagery.

Macbeth is a play which has been altered significantly both by Shakespeare, and by others in Shakespeare's lifetime and afterwards. Forman's contemporaneous account of the play having 'nymphs and fairies' is ample evidence that the play was altered to include witches, probably to please King James when the performance was given before him. It would seem that the 'witch' performance stuck and not the 'nymphs and fairies' one (perhaps because the drama of it proved more popular and the King also liked it) but the first Globe performance was nearer to Holinshed's account of 'three women in strange and wild apparel...these women were either the weird sisters...that is (as ye would say)the goddesses of destinie or else some nymphs or faeries indued with knowledge or prophesie by their necromanticall science...'

The date of the performance before King James is in dispute and so is whether the play was written for him or altered for him.

http://homepages.tesco.net/~eandcthomp/macbeth.htm

http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0277-335X(198205)47%3A2%3C12%3A%22KJP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-J

http://www.lyttonplayers.co.uk/Previous%20Productions/Macbeth/macbethforkingjames.htm

(I can't get these links to work - can you please cut and paste them into your browser.)

My argument, in essence, is that we can either interpret the Weird Sisters as Fates or as wicked witches. We can either go with the original 'Holinshed' version seen by Dr Forman and see 'nymphs and fairies' or we can go with the King James' version and see 'witches'. As an honorary Celt by ancestry( :smileyhappy:) I prefer to see the benign 'Nymphs' as Triple Goddesses/Fates and to see Macbeth's mind being affected by their prophecies and not by the spells of witchcraft.


stratford wrote:
Thank you, Everyman, for this illumination. Personally, I could not figure out what all the hullabaloo was about regarding the witch vs. non-witch debate.
1. The Dramatis Personae has HECATE and WITCHES.
2. Shakespeare’s stage directions have WITCHES.
3. Their dialogue is preceded by FIRST WITCH, SECOND WITCH, THIRD WITCH.
4. They do “witchy” things.
5. They meet up with Hecate. The following is from Wikipedia, which I have never used before, so I have no idea how authoritative it is.
Hecate
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hecate, Hekate (Hekátē), or Hekat was originally a goddess of the wilderness and childbirth, naturalized early in Thrace, but originating among the Carians of Anatolia, [1] the only region where theophoric names are attested [2], and where Hekate remained a great goddess into historical times, at Lagina. The monuments to Hekate in Phrygia and Caria are numerous but of late date. [3] Popular cults venerating her as a mother goddess integrated her persona into Greek culture as Ἑκάτη. In Ptolemaic Alexandria she ultimately achieved her connotations as a goddess of sorcery and her role as the 'Queen of Ghosts', in which guise she was transmitted to post-Renaissance culture. Today she is often seen as a goddess of witchcraft and Wicca. One aspect of Hecate is represented in the Roman Trivia.
The earliest inscription is found in late archaic Miletus, close to Caria, where Hecate is a protector of entrances. [4]
6. In Act IV, Scene I, we not only have “Enter the three WITCHES,” but in the following column, “Enter HECATE and the other three WITCHES.”
7. “The date of ‘Macbeth,’ like that of many of Shakespeare’s plays, is not beyond all dispute, but there are good reasons for believing it was written in 1605-06 and was performed at Hampton Court in 1606 before James I of England and his brother-in-law, Christian of Denmark. The play, indeed, seems to have been written to please James (and perhaps thus to further the fortunes of Shakespeare’s theatrical company, which in 1603 had been named the King’s Men).”
8. “First, ‘Macbeth’ is indebted to the fact that a Scot had acceded to the English throne. More specifically, James I had written a book called ‘Demonology,’ and in it Shakespeare could have learned, for example, that witches can foretell the future. If Shakespeare wanted to please or honor James, who was supposedly descended from Banquo, he would naturally write a play about Scottish history showing James’ ancestor in a favorable light and making use of James’ interest in witchcraft.”
It seems to be fairly clear to me anyway that Shakespeare is trying to tell us that these are witches.



Everyman wrote:


Choisya wrote:
But if they do not cast any spells, what claims can we make about them being witches? That just makes them 'fates'.

Witches don't have to cast spells. The primary aspect of witches is that they make a pact with the devil and get special powers in exchange. Those powers could include the ability to foretell the future.

But the fact is that the witches DO cast spells. In 1.3, they talk about what they have been doing. One has been killing swine, another is going to cast a spell on the seaman whose wife wouldn't give her chestnuts. The fates, as far as I'm aware, wouldn't have engaged in such activities. They might not have cast any spells relative to Macbeth (though I'll talk about that in another post), but they did cast spells relative to others, presumably to cement their witchery with the audience and give James something to rub his hands over.

Then in 4.1, they gather round the cauldron and make a brew including poisoned entrails, toad, fnake fillet, newt eye, frog's toe, dog's tongue... As Laurel pointed out, this is the activity of witches, not of the Fates.

And then, still in 4.1, they call forth three Apparitions. I'm not aware of the Fates ever relying on the calling forth of other beings.

And to top it off, Hecate comes in. She was a pre-Christian goddess, the goddess of darkness, night, and their terrors (which were quite real in a pre-electric, pre-gas lamp society), but not one of the fates. But during Christianity, because of her connection with dark and night, she was taken to be the goddess of witches and witchcraft. And S's audience would certainly have recognized her as the goddess of witches, not as having anything to do with the fates.

Indeed, Hecate (3.5) tells the three witches she is "the mistress of your charms / The close contriver of all harms..." These are witch words, not Fates word.

Finally, the Fates were pre-Christian with no carry-over into Christian doctrine that I'm aware of, and therefore would not likely have been featured in a play of that era, particularly since it's pretty well agreed that Shakespeare was playing to James's interest in demonology.

It seems pretty clear to me, looking at all the activity of the witches (and James's interest in them) that Shakespeare intended them to be seen as witches, not just as the Fates.

Message Edited by Choisya on 03-10-200704:45 AM

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Choisya
Posts: 10,782
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Re: The Weird Sisters

Why is is 'right on target' when the only contemporary account we have of the first public performance in 1610 clearly states 'nymphs and fairies'? Shakespeare may have 'intended' them to be seen as witches in another performance before the king but that does not negate what Dr Forman saw in April 1610.




Everyman wrote:


stratford wrote:
Personally, I could not figure out what all the hullabaloo was about regarding the witch vs. non-witch debate....It seems pretty clear to me, looking at all the activity of the witches (and James's interest in them) that Shakespeare intended them to be seen as witches, not just as the Fates.

Excellent analysis. Right on target.


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Choisya
Posts: 10,782
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Re: The Weird Sisters

Everyman wrote:
Frankly, I don't understand why you're so resistant to their simply being witches as Shakespeare describes them and as the text seems pretty clearly to support.


The text has been altered MANY times. I am resistant because

1) The only contemporary account was have of the first performance clearly states that there were 'nymphs and fairies' and does not mention witches. This accords with Holinshed, a favourite source of Shakespeare.

2) Because the date of the performance before King James is in dispute, as is whether Shakespeare altered the play to suit his obsessions with witchcraft (although I agree that this is likely if Shakespeare wanted to put a subsequent 'spin' on the play to please the King).

3) Because the insertion by Middleton of the Hecate and witches scene throws dispute on the whole idea of witches. Nymphs, especially Triple Goddesses/Fates, can take on any attire, can appear as any age and are well represented in Celtic myths and legends (including Celtic Jewellery showing the triple spiral).

I have given numerous references to support my case and folks can either take them or leave them. There have been many productions which feature Three 'Fates' not dressed as traditional witches, sometimes measuring out yarn to symbolise the thread of Macbeth's life etc. Jennifer Ehle of P&P fame has starred in such a performance here and on Broadway, which clearly put the onus on Macbeth's own evil-doing after he heard the prophesies and not on witchcraft.

However, it is a matter of personal opinion as to which version we go with, 'Fates' or 'Witches', so let's now leave this subject.




Everyman wrote:

Choisya wrote:
I have posted elsewhere about this. Apparently Shakespeare changed his manuscruipt quite a lot and there is evidence that the play was performed with nymphs and not witches in 1610


As far as I know, that's just from one viewer's journal. Simon Forman did describe them as "nymphas and fairies," but that was of a 1611 production, which would have been the version adapted to show to James (the play was apparently written in 1606, most of my sources say.)

We know that Holinshed referred to "creatures of the elderwood . . . nymphs or fairies" in his descriptions of the history of Duncan. It's quite likely that Dr. Forman knew his Holinshed; since the theaters did not have programs at the time which would have identified them, he may have just picked that up out of Holihshed.

As we have seen, Shakespeare deviated significantly from Holinshed. A nymph or fairy doesn't have the tragic power that Shakespeare needed for his play, so it seems quite plausible that he would darken them into witches, as he darkened Macbeth from a killer in battle to a murderer in cold blood of a sleeping man.

The description
What are these,
So wither’d and so wild in their attire,
That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ earth,
hardly seems to describe a nymph or fairy, who are generally portrayed more like the fairies in MND, delicate, light, happy.

And even if they had been nymphs or fairies, those are no more the Fates than witches would be. So it doesn't bring us any closer to the assertion you've made earlier that you think they were the three Fates.

Frankly, I don't understand why you're so resistant to their simply being witches as Shakespeare describes them and as the text seems pretty clearly to support.


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Re: The Weird Sisters : Middleton's Witches & Hecate



Choisya wrote:
Dr Forman, who saw the first Globe producton in 1610 reports that he saw 'nymphs and fairies', not witches.

Possibly the good Doctor Forman attended a doubleheader of MND and MCBTH, went to the local pub afterwards to throw down more than a few, and got a little mixed up in his report.
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Re: The Weird Sisters : Middleton's Witches & Hecate

And possibly he didn't and it was an accurate report.




stratford wrote:


Choisya wrote:
Dr Forman, who saw the first Globe producton in 1610 reports that he saw 'nymphs and fairies', not witches.

Possibly the good Doctor Forman attended a doubleheader of MND and MCBTH, went to the local pub afterwards to throw down more than a few, and got a little mixed up in his report.



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Re: The Weird Sisters : Middleton's Witches & Hecate



Choisya wrote:
As an honorary Celt by ancestry( :smileyhappy:) I prefer to see the benign 'Nymphs' as Triple Goddesses/Fates and to see Macbeth's mind being affected by their prophecies and not by the spells of witchcraft.

Ah. That explains your passion.
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Re: The Weird Sisters



Choisya wrote:
Why is is 'right on target' when the only contemporary account we have of the first public performance in 1610 clearly states 'nymphs and fairies'?

First, this is the first record of the performance of the play, but it's unlikely to have been the first performance; the play was written, most authorities agree, in 1606; would S have left it sitting around unperformed for five years?

BTW, I have seen both 1610 and 1611 cited as the date of Forman's diary, but since the the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare and several scholarly journals use the 1611 date, I find that more likely.

However, it's clear, as you have said, that your Celtic blood cries out for these figures to be Celtic figures and not witches, I won't further try to dissuade you from your commitment to your ancestry.
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?



cheryl_shell wrote:
When we meet the three witches in the first scene of act one, we don’t get much information; yet it seems there is something afoot.

Later, when they meet with Macbeth and Banquo, we learn more about them, but it isn't yet clear what they're up to. Though they supposedly deliver prophecy, the sisters actually tell Macbeth and Banquo very little. But it starts them thinking.

Questions that continue throughout this play:

How much would you say the witches are responsible for Macbeth’s turn to the dark side?

Do you think they have real supernatural powers? Or like clever carnival fortune tellers, are they merely good at figuring out what Macbeth most wants to hear?




I believe the witches greatly influenced Macbeth's turn to the dark side. However, Macbeth made his own bad choices. People have many qualities within them which can be used for the greater good or for evil. Each person makes a clear moral choice simply by way their life is lived, whether or not they realize it consciously.

The witches are certainly good at knowing what Macbeth wants to hear, and in influencing him toward the dark side. But I don't think their powers are real.

I believe, at this point in the play, MacBeth is simply trying to turn the witches prophecies into a self-fullfilling prophecy! But, since he's deluding himself, I don't see how he can succeed.
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

I agree; and, in a few of the scenes we've already read, the witches not only have familiars (as someone else mentioned before), but speak about casting spells. I don't honestly see how that could tie in with the other theory.

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Re: The Weird Sisters

Hi Liz, Sorry to take so long in responding to you but hopefully late is better than never. I hope the following exegesis will help. I spent a fair amount of time on it. stratford

Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor:/The greatest is behind. “Behind” in this context merely means “to follow.” All Macbeth is saying is that if the prophecies he has just heard come to complete fruition he “shalt be king hereafter!” There is no exclamation point after “The greatest is behind.” Macbeth is just stating something rather matter-of-factly and apparently rather unemotionally. I see no “fascination with the idea of being king” and I definitely do not see any “thoughts of murder” at this point.

Two truths are told,/As happy prologues to the swelling act/Of the imperial theme. “Swelling” in this context means “stately.” Again, a rather unemotional, matter-of-fact statement of the simple facts. The Witches hailed Macbeth as both Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor. So he presently finds he is. And these two titles may just be prologue to him eventually being “king hereafter!” Again, I see no “fascination with the idea of being king” and I definitely do not see any “thoughts of murder” at this point.

My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical. You must be careful not to take single lines out of their context. If you go back to the beginning of that aside Macbeth is saying: This supernatural soliciting (“inviting”)/Cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill,/Why hath it given me earnest of success,/Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor:/If good, why do I yield to that suggestion/Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair/And make my seated (“fixed”) heart knock at my ribs,/Against the use of nature? (“Contrary to my natural way”) Present fears/Are less than horrible imaginings./My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical (“imaginary”),/Shakes so my single (“unaided”) state of man that function/Is smothered in surmise, and nothing is/But what is not. I simply do not see a scheming murderer here. I see a man who is greatly struggling with his thoughts because of what has just happened to him. I do not see him planning anything. I see him struggling to make sense of the situation, and I see him fearful of doing anything “against the use of nature.”

One line later, after Banquo’s “Look, how our partner’s rapt,” Macbeth says: If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me,/Without my stir. THIS ASIDE IS CRUCIAL TO THE DISCUSSION AT HAND. Chance made Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. Chance may also make him king, and without any effort on his part (“Without my stir.”) He seems satisfied to wait things out. I see no proof of Macbeth having any “fascination with the idea of being king” at this point, and there are no “thoughts of murder.” In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. He will wait for chance to crown him.

Two lines later Macbeth has another aside: Come what come may. This just further reinforces the previous aside and my comments in the previous paragraph.

After one more line by Banquo, Macbeth says: Give me your favor (“pardon”). My dull brain was wrought/With things forgotten. And then a couple lines later the aside to Banquo that you next quote in your post: Think upon what hath chanced, and at more time,/The interim having weighed it (“When we have had time to think”), let us speak/Our free hearts (“Our minds freely”) each to other. There is absolutely nothing sinister here. As I said a little bit above, Macbeth is greatly struggling to make sense of an otherwise incomprehensible situation, and he simply wants to talk to Banquo about it a little later after they both have had some time to think about it.

The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step/On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,/For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;/Let not light see my black and deep desires:/The eye wink at the hand (“be blind to the hand’s deed”); yet let that be/Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. For the first time Macbeth evidences some “black and deep desires.” But is the king the target of those desires? No; Malcolm is the target of these desires. And nothing ever comes of this anyway as Malcolm has the distinct privilege of speaking the final lines of the play just shortly after Macduff enters “with Macbeth’s head.” As Macbeth just said, if he doesn’t “o’erleap” the Prince of Cumberland, “That is a step/On which I must fall down.” This turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as he does eventually fall down, it is just that Macbeth’s prophecy is only partially correct as someone else proves to be the step on which Macbeth falls down.

This takes us up to Lady Macbeth’s reading of the letter. And make sure you catch the end of that letter: “This have I thought good to/deliver thee (“report to you”), my dearest partner of greatness, that/thou mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being/ignorant of what GREATNESS IS PROMISED THEE. Lay it to/thy heart, and farewell.” This is what she has to say about her husband, and I trust that she knows him very well:
Yet do I fear thy nature;/It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness (“i.e., gentle quality of human nature”)/To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,/Art not without ambition, but without/The illness (“wickedness”) should attend it. What thou wouldst highly,/That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,/And yet wouldst wrongly win…./Hie thee hither,/That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,/AND CHASTISE WITH THE VALOR OF MY TONGUE/ALL THAT IMPEDES THEE FROM THE GOLDEN ROUND (“crown”)/Which fate and metaphysical (“supernatural”) aid doth seem/To have thee crowned withal (“with”).

You say: LM gives him courage (if you want to call it that) when he falters and doubts, but the original fascination with the idea of being king & thoughts of murder are his. The next extended speech by Lady Macbeth would seem to prove this incorrect: The raven himself is hoarse/THAT CROAKS THE FATAL ENTRANCE OF DUNCAN/UNDER MY BATTLEMENTS. Come, you spirits/That tend on mortal (“deadly”) thoughts, unsex me here,/And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full/OF DIREST CRUELTY! Make thick my blood,/STOP UP TH’ ACCESS AND PASSAGE TO REMORSE (“compassion”),/That no compunctious visitings of nature (“natural feelings of compassion”)/Shake my fell (“savage”) purpose, nor keep peace between/Th’ effect (“fulfillment”) and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,/And take my milk for (“in exchange for”) gall, you murd’ring ministers (“agents”),/Wherever in your sightless (“invisible”) substances/You wait on (“assist”) nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,/And pall (“enshroud”) thee in the dunnest (“darkest”) smoke of hell,/THAT MY KEEN KNIFE SEE NOT THE WOUND IT MAKES,/NOR HEAVEN PEEP THROUGH THE BLANKET OF THE DARK,./TO CRY, “HOLD, HOLD!” I don’t know about you, but Lady Macbeth scares the hell out of me. Up to this point Macbeth has only struggled with confusing happenings and thoughts. His language has been relatively tame. The same cannot be said for Lady Macbeth. She is truly the one, to use your words, that has “the original fascination with the idea of being king” and the “thoughts of murder” are hers not his.

The following exchange proves Macbeth’s innocence and Lady Macbeth’s blackness:
MACBETH: My dearest love,/Duncan comes here tonight.
LADY MACBETH: And when goes hence?
MACBETH: TOMORROW, AS HE PURPOSES.
LADY MACBETH: O, NEVER/SHALL SUN THAT MORROW SEE!.../He that’s coming/Must be provided for: AND YOU SHALL PUT/THIS NIGHT’S GREAT BUSINESS INTO MY DISPATCH (“management”);/Which shall to all our nights and days to come/Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.
Macbeth lamely replies: We will speak further.
Lady Macbeth has the final words of the scene: LEAVE ALL THE REST TO ME.

Macbeth starts out Scene VII with:
If it were done (“over and done with”) when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well/It were done quickly. If th’ assassination/Could trammel up (“catch in a net”) the consequence, and catch,/With his surcease (“Duncan’s death”), success (“what follows”); that but this blow/Might be the be-all and the end-all—here,/But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,/We’d jump (“RISK”) the life to come.
NOW MACBETH REASONS THAT HE CANNOT COMMIT SUCH A BLOODY DEED AS REGICIDE. He continues:
But in these cases/We still (“always”) have judgment here; that we but teach/Bloody instructions, which, being taught, RETURN/TO PLAGUE TH’ INVENTOR: THIS EVEN-HANDED (“impartial”) JUSTICE/COMMENDS (“offers”) TH’ INGREDIENTS OF OUR POISONED CHALICE/TO OUR OWN LIPS. HE’S HERE IN DOUBLE TRUST:/FIRST, AS I AM HIS KINSMAN AND HIS SUBJECT,/STRONG BOTH AGAINST THE DEED; THEN, AS HIS HOST,/WHO SHOULD AGAINST HIS MURDERER SHUT THE DOOR,/NOT BEAR THE KNIFE MYSELF. As far as I know, Scotland was Christian during Macbeth’s lifetime. As far as I know, the entire “civilized” world was Christian at this time. I don’t think there really was much of a choice—not until Martin Luther. I also have to assume that Shakespeare and his audience were very familiar with Dante and his “Divine Comedy.” As I have noted elsewhere, Macbeth is realizing, and giving speech to the fact, that killing a king AND a kinsman AND a guest AND a benefactor would consign him to all of the four lowest circles of Dante’s Hell, all at the same time. We are talking something pretty serious here, assuming we are dealing with a Christian mindset in Macbeth. Macbeth finishes his soliloquy by praising Duncan, worrying about his own “deep damnation” should he be the one who kills Duncan, and finishing off with: I have no spur/To prick the sides of my intent, but only/Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself/And falls on th’ other—

He then, near immediately, says to his wife: WE WILL PROCEED NO FURTHER IN THIS BUSINESS:/He hath honored me of late, and I have bought (“acquired”)/Golden opinions from all sorts of people,/Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,/Not cast aside so soon. As I have written earlier, this is where Lady Macbeth proceeds to humiliate him, question his manhood, and insult his manhood until he feels that he has no choice but to submit to her wishes. She even comes up with the whole plan and says she will participate in the execution of it. Macbeth then refers to her “undaunted mettle.” Only at the very end of Act I does he finally say: I am settled, and bend up/Each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Macbeth may have been an undaunted general and champion on the battlefield, but on the home front he is clearly no match for his vicious, bloodthirsty, ambitious, and greedy wife. Macbeth is definitely not the king of his castle. He may wear the kilts; Lady Macbeth wears the pants. I hope I have shown that Macbeth’s thoughts about kingship have been fleeting and even contradictory at best. He seems to be very concerned with not doing anything unnatural, and he knows deep inside of him that the killing of a king and a kinsman and a guest is most unnatural. Yet, against his better nature, he does it anyway—ONLY AT THE INSTIGATION OF HIS WIFE. Contrary to your thesis, “the original fascination with the idea of being king” is Lady Macbeth’s, not Macbeth’s. And, again, the “thoughts of murder” are primarily, and almost exclusively, Lady Macbeth’s, not Macbeth’s. I have to believe that a very careful reading of Act I in its entirety would not support your thesis. It is very important to take things as a whole and not randomly quote five snippets of dialogue out of their proper context. This can easily lead to misunderstanding. I am not trying to be critical. I am only trying to be helpful. And I hope this helps, and I hope it is accepted in the spirit with which it is intended.





LizzieAnn wrote:
LM gives him courage (if you want to call it that) when he falters and doubts, but the original fascination with the idea of being king & thoughts of murder are his. Consider:

  • Macbeth             [aside]Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor!
    The greatest is behind.
    (I.3.116-117)


  • Macbeth [aside] Two truths are told,
    As happy prologues to the swelling act
    Of the imperial theme.
    (I.3.128-129)

    My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical (I.3.140)


  • Macbeth [aside to Banquo] Think upon what hath chanced, and, at more time
    The interim having weighed it, let us speak
    Our free hearts to each other.
    (I.3.155-157)


  • Macbeth [aside]The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step
    On which I must fall down or else o'erleap,
    For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
    Let not light see my black and deep desires.
    The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be
    Wich the eye fears, when it is done, to see.
    (I.4.48-53)


  • This is all before we even meet Lady Macbeth in Scene 5, where she first learns of the witches prophecy.






    stratford wrote:
    Does Macbeth really decide to be king or is he browbeaten into the decision by the Mrs?

    Is Macbeth really all that ambitious of a man? His wife has to humiliate him and insult his manhood in order to get him to act after he says, "We will proceed no further in this business...."




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