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Everyman
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Re: The WEIRD Sisters = Fate not wickedness.



Choisya wrote:
Thanks for the OED definitions because they back up the interpretation I have given elsewhere of the sisters being the Three Fates.

Yes, I think it's pretty common theory to connect the three witches with the Fates. There's also a connection with the number three, which is a magic number.
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked? (off topic)

I and afraid I don't Everyman - sorry, my sources are all packed away. But it bears out the idea of the three sisters being the Fates and not witches doesn't it? They can't really be both, within the characterisation of Delphic Priestesses and Elizabethan witches. I suppose you agree that the Delphic Priestesses weren't traditionally evil but Elizabethan witches were?

Yes, most editions use the word witches in the stage direction but not thereafter, which is thought to be another pointer to the non-witch argument. Although I suppose you could argue that Shakespeare was inventing a new kind of witch, a cross between and Delphic Priestess and an Elizabethan witch....




Everyman wrote:


Choisya wrote:
I believe that stage direction has been queried because there is no mention of the sisters being witches throughout the play,

That's interesting. Do you have any references for that? I've never read that theory. All four of the editions of the play that I have use the term witches, and none has any commentary to suggest that they were anything but traditional witches. (I don't have the Arden Macbeth, though.) The Oxvord Companion to Shakespeare's article on witchcraft has an interesting discussion of the use of witches in the plays, including Macbeth, but nowhere suggests that the witches in Macbeth weren't intended to be considered witches. Epstein discusses the witches at some length, noting inter alia that "the central question of the play is whether the Witch's final statement is a warning, a temptation, or a prophecy." Although she is usually pretty good about mentioning different approaches to the plays.

(When we get to the Porter scene, remind me to mention her interesting take on it, one I don't recall having read elsewhere, though I'm sure it's not original with her.)

If you have a source for the idea that the stage direction of witches has been queried, I would love to read it. It's one I haven't come across before.


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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked? (off topic)



Choisya wrote:
it bears out the idea of the three sisters being the Fates and not witches doesn't it? They can't really be both, within the characterisation of Delphic Priestesses and Elizabethan witches.

I'm not sure Shakespeare or his audience were that nuanced. I don't think they thought of Delphic Oracles as much as just of fates, and witches could be seen as having made a pact with the devil to know the future, and so have the power of knowledge (recalling that the desire to have knowledge of good and evil was the temptation of Satan and the cause of the expulsion from Eden). So no, I don't see that having the power to forsee the future necessarily would have told a Shakespearean audience that these weren't witches.

And you're overlooking the very prominent presence of familiars, which was very much an attribute of witches and not of the Delphic oracles.
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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 think the witches merely put the idea into his head. Macbeth then chooses to act on that idea.
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked? (off topic)

[ Edited ]
OK I give up - especially as there are cats involved.:smileyhappy:




Everyman wrote:


Choisya wrote:
it bears out the idea of the three sisters being the Fates and not witches doesn't it? They can't really be both, within the characterisation of Delphic Priestesses and Elizabethan witches.

I'm not sure Shakespeare or his audience were that nuanced. I don't think they thought of Delphic Oracles as much as just of fates, and witches could be seen as having made a pact with the devil to know the future, and so have the power of knowledge (recalling that the desire to have knowledge of good and evil was the temptation of Satan and the cause of the expulsion from Eden). So no, I don't see that having the power to forsee the future necessarily would have told a Shakespearean audience that these weren't witches.

And you're overlooking the very prominent presence of familiars, which was very much an attribute of witches and not of the Delphic oracles.

Message Edited by Choisya on 03-07-200703:06 AM

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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

I think that the witches don't have any real metaphysical powers. Instead, i belive that they are entirely physcological. They have the power of suggestion that causes them to be a key factor in someone's dessicion making. Macbeth probably felt that he should have made some of his choices based on what the witches said, whether out of fear or actually beliving them. Perhaps their "spell" in the beggining is only a cryptic conversation, similar to how early heretcis spoke to each other.
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?



Phantom wrote:
I think that the witches don't have any real metaphysical powers. Instead, i belive that they are entirely physcological. They have the power of suggestion that causes them to be a key factor in someone's dessicion making. Macbeth probably felt that he should have made some of his choices based on what the witches said, whether out of fear or actually beliving them. Perhaps their "spell" in the beggining is only a cryptic conversation, similar to how early heretcis spoke to each other.


I think most people today would say the same thing.

What do you think, though, that Shakespeare's audience would think? Keep in mind that the Salem Witch Trials were later in the same century Macbeth was written in, that in 1563 (Macbeth was probably written in 1606) witchcraft was made a capital offense in England, and that in 1612 ten of the Pendle Witches were hanged at Lancaster, accused of murdering 17 people by witchcraft. Wouldn't Shakespeare's audience have fully believed that witches had evil, supernatural powers?
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

I think it is a mistake to suppose them psychological as in the era Shakespeare was writing they were very real and their powers were thought to be very real too. In our post-Freudian times we can see the power of suggestion etc but that would not have been how the Elizabethans would have regarded the play.




Phantom wrote:
I think that the witches don't have any real metaphysical powers. Instead, i belive that they are entirely physcological. They have the power of suggestion that causes them to be a key factor in someone's dessicion making. Macbeth probably felt that he should have made some of his choices based on what the witches said, whether out of fear or actually beliving them. Perhaps their "spell" in the beggining is only a cryptic conversation, similar to how early heretcis spoke to each other.


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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

Very true Everyman. We have to suspend our disbelief when it comes to the Weird Sisters and the supernatural and try to enter into the minds of the Elizabethans, for whom these things were 'true', not psychological.




Everyman wrote:


Phantom wrote:
I think that the witches don't have any real metaphysical powers. Instead, i belive that they are entirely physcological. They have the power of suggestion that causes them to be a key factor in someone's dessicion making. Macbeth probably felt that he should have made some of his choices based on what the witches said, whether out of fear or actually beliving them. Perhaps their "spell" in the beggining is only a cryptic conversation, similar to how early heretcis spoke to each other.


I think most people today would say the same thing.

What do you think, though, that Shakespeare's audience would think? Keep in mind that the Salem Witch Trials were later in the same century Macbeth was written in, that in 1563 (Macbeth was probably written in 1606) witchcraft was made a capital offense in England, and that in 1612 ten of the Pendle Witches were hanged at Lancaster, accused of murdering 17 people by witchcraft. Wouldn't Shakespeare's audience have fully believed that witches had evil, supernatural powers?


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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

Exactly.



Choisya wrote:
Very true Everyman. We have to suspend our disbelief when it comes to the Weird Sisters and the supernatural and try to enter into the minds of the Elizabethans, for whom these things were 'true', not psychological.




Everyman wrote:


Phantom wrote:
I think that the witches don't have any real metaphysical powers. Instead, i belive that they are entirely physcological. They have the power of suggestion that causes them to be a key factor in someone's dessicion making. Macbeth probably felt that he should have made some of his choices based on what the witches said, whether out of fear or actually beliving them. Perhaps their "spell" in the beggining is only a cryptic conversation, similar to how early heretcis spoke to each other.


I think most people today would say the same thing.

What do you think, though, that Shakespeare's audience would think? Keep in mind that the Salem Witch Trials were later in the same century Macbeth was written in, that in 1563 (Macbeth was probably written in 1606) witchcraft was made a capital offense in England, and that in 1612 ten of the Pendle Witches were hanged at Lancaster, accused of murdering 17 people by witchcraft. Wouldn't Shakespeare's audience have fully believed that witches had evil, supernatural powers?





"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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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

[ Edited ]
I tend to go with the theory that Macbeth already had the burning ambition to become king even before he encountered the witches. It would seem implausible to me that his character start out as somebody who's totally above board and just like that, just by hearing the witches' pronouncements, he should cross the line to the other side and suddenly become murderous. I think that he already had been more or less envisaging this plot to grab power for himself and it was the meeting with the witches that finally pushed him to concretize his plans.

I think that in the context of the story, we are encouraged to look upon the witches as possessing supernatural powers. They could, after all, see into the future, they could vanish into thin air, and one of them did make a tempest blow so as to punish a sailor.






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?

Message Edited by mef6395 on 03-08-200701:30 PM

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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

Macbeth could very well be an excellent warrior, follow the King's orders in battle, enjoy the benefits that the King accords him in terms of his rank and their family ties, and yet scheme against the same King.



stratford wrote:
I think they are very much responsible for Macbeth's turn to the dark side. I am not excusing him in any manner whatsoever from any personal responsibility for what follows, but like I believe I said in my "Macbeth myopia" post, I find it hard to believe, especially after all the good things we hear about Macbeth in Act I, that he would have near immediately started thinking about assassinating the king just because the king elevated him to Thane of Cawdor. I don't remember when people in "The Isles" started thinking of their king as God's representative on earth but even if that thinking was not prevalent at this time I do not think Macbeth would have turned to the dark side without the predictions of the witches because even if Macbeth didn't think of Duncan as divinely ordained and protected, Macbeth would still look upon him as his king, his cousin, and his benefactor (just having elevated him to Thane of Cawdor), all good reasons for regicide to not even enter the mind of Macbeth except for the evil and pernicious seeds planted by the witches. Fertile ground, yes no doubt, but the seeds first had to be planted.



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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

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?




mef6395 wrote:
I tend to go with the theory that Macbeth already had the burning ambition to become king even before he encountered the witches. It would seem implausible to me that his character start out as somebody who's totally above board and just like that, just by hearing the witches' pronouncements, he should cross the line to the other side and suddenly become murderous. I think that he already had been more or less envisaging this plot to grab power for himself and it was the meeting with the witches that finally pushed him to concretize his plans.

I think that in the context of the story, we are encouraged to look upon the witches as possessing supernatural powers. They could, after all, see into the future, they could vanish into thin air, and one of them did make a tempest blow so as to punish a sailor.






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?

Message Edited by mef6395 on 03-08-200701:30 PM




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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

No. I think Elizabethans would believe that Macbeth had the freedom to choose whether to follow the suggestions that came to his mind after hearing the weird sisters.



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?




mef6395 wrote:
I tend to go with the theory that Macbeth already had the burning ambition to become king even before he encountered the witches. It would seem implausible to me that his character start out as somebody who's totally above board and just like that, just by hearing the witches' pronouncements, he should cross the line to the other side and suddenly become murderous. I think that he already had been more or less envisaging this plot to grab power for himself and it was the meeting with the witches that finally pushed him to concretize his plans.

I think that in the context of the story, we are encouraged to look upon the witches as possessing supernatural powers. They could, after all, see into the future, they could vanish into thin air, and one of them did make a tempest blow so as to punish a sailor.






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?

Message Edited by mef6395 on 03-08-200701:30 PM







"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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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

The idea that kings were ordained by God - The Divine Right of Kings - evolved in Europe in the Middle Ages. The theory claimed that as Kings were appointed by god it was evil to oppose them. James I/IV wrote a treatise on this which was 'taken as gospel' until the Age of Enlightenment:-

http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/ralph/workbook/ralprs20.htm

So the play Macbeth would have an audience that believed that any uprising against or harm to a king would call down the wrath of God because a king was the Lord's Anointed.

Macbeth was a warrior and warriors, in battle at least, kill. If someone has already killed others in hand to hand combat on the battlefield, it may be a small step from that to being 'bewitched' into committing murder. Especially if you were egged on by your equally ambitious and 'bewitched' wife.




mef6395 wrote:
Macbeth could very well be an excellent warrior, follow the King's orders in battle, enjoy the benefits that the King accords him in terms of his rank and their family ties, and yet scheme against the same King.



stratford wrote:
I think they are very much responsible for Macbeth's turn to the dark side. I am not excusing him in any manner whatsoever from any personal responsibility for what follows, but like I believe I said in my "Macbeth myopia" post, I find it hard to believe, especially after all the good things we hear about Macbeth in Act I, that he would have near immediately started thinking about assassinating the king just because the king elevated him to Thane of Cawdor. I don't remember when people in "The Isles" started thinking of their king as God's representative on earth but even if that thinking was not prevalent at this time I do not think Macbeth would have turned to the dark side without the predictions of the witches because even if Macbeth didn't think of Duncan as divinely ordained and protected, Macbeth would still look upon him as his king, his cousin, and his benefactor (just having elevated him to Thane of Cawdor), all good reasons for regicide to not even enter the mind of Macbeth except for the evil and pernicious seeds planted by the witches. Fertile ground, yes no doubt, but the seeds first had to be planted.






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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?



pat42 wrote:


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 think the witches merely put the idea into his head. Macbeth then chooses to act on that idea.




I agree, pat42. As I think one of you noted, it's as if the prediction gives Macbeth permission to do what he was already contemplating.
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

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?




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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

I agree that the Weird Sisters did not invite Macbeth to murder Duncan. They merely foretold the future. It was Macbeth himself who interpreted the prophesy as a suggestion or even a go-ahead to kill Duncan.

The society in Shakespeare's time, however, would have considered the Weird Sisters as witches and engaging in evil practices, would they have not?




Choisya wrote:
Certainly Shakespeare both wanted his audiences to believe in witchcraft and would believe that they did, because most people then did so. They also had a king, James I, who firmly believed in witches and witchcraft. It was a capital offence to be a witch because they were considered enemies to society. So witches and witchcraft were real and not psychological constructs. Real to Shakespeare (probably), real to the audience and real to Elizabethans in general.

However, I do not consider the Weird Sisters to be witches nor do I believe they are engaging in evil or witchcraft. They foretell the future, like Delphic Priestesses, it is the others who enact the evil - the Macbeths have 'free will' but they choose damnation. When, for instance, Lady Macbeth calls upon 'dark forces (1.5,36-52) she asks demonic spirits to posses her mind and body - the great actress Sarah Siddons said that she 'had impiously delivered herself up to the excitements of hell' This was witchcraft and horror of horrors! it was allied to another very evil thing - regicide. But this was not the doing of the Sisters, nor do they invite Macbeth to murder Duncan or suggest it. The supernatural elements, the 'dark forces', are invoked, they are not already present in the persons of the Weird Sisters in Act I. Their supernatural power lay in seeing the future, not in making people act it out and I think Elizabethans would have appreciated that difference.





Everyman wrote:


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Choisya
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

Yes, as good Christians they would believe that God had given him 'free will'.




Laurel wrote:
No. I think Elizabethans would believe that Macbeth had the freedom to choose whether to follow the suggestions that came to his mind after hearing the weird sisters.



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?




mef6395 wrote:
I tend to go with the theory that Macbeth already had the burning ambition to become king even before he encountered the witches. It would seem implausible to me that his character start out as somebody who's totally above board and just like that, just by hearing the witches' pronouncements, he should cross the line to the other side and suddenly become murderous. I think that he already had been more or less envisaging this plot to grab power for himself and it was the meeting with the witches that finally pushed him to concretize his plans.

I think that in the context of the story, we are encouraged to look upon the witches as possessing supernatural powers. They could, after all, see into the future, they could vanish into thin air, and one of them did make a tempest blow so as to punish a sailor.






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?

Message Edited by mef6395 on 03-08-200701:30 PM










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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

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?







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