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Choisya
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

The Greek Myths and Legends would have been as well known in these times as the Scottish tales so I think the audience would have known of The Three Fates too. However, the king (for whom the play was written) and his courtiers, the first audience, may well have chosen to interpret the Sisters as Witches and perhaps this the scene for subsequent audiences? In our time too, they are iusually nterpreted as witches on stage so I think the idea of them being the Three Fates has been forgotten and their actions in Act I have been interpreted as casting spells instead of making phrophesies - and as Everyman has said, the fact that they have 'Grimalkin, a cat and traditionally the witches' familiar, has added to this.

I wonder what Cheryl's interpretation is?




mef6395 wrote:
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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mef6395
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

[ Edited ]
Who wrote the stage directions? Aren't the 2 references to the Sisters being witches sufficient to qualify them as such?




Choisya wrote:
I believe that stage direction has been queried because there is no mention of the sisters being witches throughout the play, only 'weird' (wyrd etc). There are only two reference to 'witch' in the text, one referring to a sailor's wife 'Anoint thee witch!' I.iii.6 and the other when a 'witches mummy' is mentioned as being in the couldron. IV.i.23.

The invocation of witchcraft is there, and demonic possession takes place, as I have explained (I hope!) and that accords with James' beliefs etc. Given that being a witch was against the law and the literal interpretation that audiences of this time would give to such a portrayal, would it have been acceptable to portray actual witches on stage, and before a king? Similarly, Lady Macbeth is not portrayed as a witch, only as a woman possessed by the demons which can be conjured up by witchcraft. My interpretation is one which believes that the three sisters are not witches but are symbolic of the Three Fates.

It will be interesting to see what other reader make of this although I suspect that many of our readings have been coloured by the productions which portray the sisters as stereotypical witches. I am just trying to inject another POV based on Theobold's reading, amongst others.




Message Edited by mef6395 on 03-09-200711:23 AM

Message Edited by mef6395 on 03-09-200711:27 AM

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

I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?




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.




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Choisya
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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

[ Edited ]
Shakespeare wrote the stage directions but he apparently altered his original text many times and seems to have made the sisters more witchlike than in Holinshed's text when it was performed before King James and the King of Denmark in 1606. A contemporary account by a Dr Simon Forman, who saw the performance at the Globe in 1610, says:

'In Macbeth at the Globe, 1610, the 20 of April, Saturday, there was to be observed, first, how Macbeth and Banquo, two noble men of Scotland, riding through a wood, there stood before them three women fairies or nymphs, and saluted Macbeth, saying three times unto him, "Hail, Macbeth, King of Codon; for thou shall be a King, but shall beget no kings," etc. Then said Banquo, "what all to Macbeth, and nothing to me?" "Yes", said the nymphs, "hail to thee, Banquo, thou shall beget kings, yet be no king"; and so they departed...

There are some interesting explanations and comments on Shakespeare's transformation of the 'nymphs' below, wherein the author states:-

'It can be argued that the changes [from Holinshed's account] serve three main purposes: the dramatic purpose of producing a more exciting story than is found in the sources; the thematic purpose of creating a more complex characterization of Macbeth; and the political purpose of catering to the beliefs of the reigning monarch, King James the First. And, in the grander scheme, Shakespeare’s alterations function to convey the sentiment echoed in many of his works – that there is a divine right of kings, and that to usurp the throne is a nefarious crime against all of humanity.' [My italics.]

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sources/macbethsources.html

Here is an account which shows how strongly King James believed in witches and witchcraft:-

'James VI of Scotland married princess Anne of Denmark by proxy in 1589. She sailed for Scotland, but was driven back by storms which the Danish admiral Peter Munk blamed on witches in Copenhagen. James then went to Denmark himself, where he spent the winter and may have absorbed Continental views on witchcraft. On his return to Scotland in 1590 he again encountered storms at sea, subsequently blamed on a group of Scottish witches. James himself took over some of the interrogation of these people and was convinced that they had been trying to kill him by raising storms, by working on wax images, and by manufacturing poison. An attempt was made to implicate the King's cousin, Francis, Earl of Bothwell, in the plot.

An account of the affair was published in England, called Newes from Scotland (1592) – a fairly nasty combination of propaganda and pornography – and King James wrote a tract called Daemonologie (1597) to persuade sceptics of the importance of witchcraft, and to put himself in the forefront of modern thinking, showing that his learning and scholarship was thoroughly up to date.'

Here is very full and interesting academic analysis of the 'witch' argument, which states, amongst other things, that the witches of Elizabethan England did not use 'couldrons' and that this is a continental (possibly Danish) fancy.

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

I think my 'jury is still out' on this one.:smileyhappy:




mef6395 wrote:
Who wrote the stage directions? Aren't the 2 references to the Sisters being witches sufficient to qualify them as such?

Message Edited by Choisya on 03-09-200712:27 PM

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The Weird Sisters

I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth. They held out a prize, temptation before him, but it was he who chose to act on it. They tell him that he will be king - but they don't say of what, when, where, or how. Macbeth decides that to be king he has to murder Duncan now. The weird sisters/witches throw out something that would appeal to an amibitious man like Macbeth - but the choice and actions are his.



mef6395 wrote:
I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?

Liz ♥ ♥


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Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?

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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Re: The Weird Sisters

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...."



LizzieAnn wrote:
I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth. They held out a prize, temptation before him, but it was he who chose to act on it. They tell him that he will be king - but they don't say of what, when, where, or how. Macbeth decides that to be king he has to murder Duncan now. The weird sisters/witches throw out something that would appeal to an amibitious man like Macbeth - but the choice and actions are his.



mef6395 wrote:
I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?




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Re: The Weird Sisters

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...."

    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

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




    LizzieAnn wrote:
    I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth. They held out a prize, temptation before him, but it was he who chose to act on it. They tell him that he will be king - but they don't say of what, when, where, or how. Macbeth decides that to be king he has to murder Duncan now. The weird sisters/witches throw out something that would appeal to an amibitious man like Macbeth - but the choice and actions are his.



    mef6395 wrote:
    I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

    My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?




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    Re: The Weird Sisters

    But they do cast spells from their discussion at the beginning of Scene 3. I just don't think they cast this particular one on Macbeth in Act I. What they do later remains to be seen (I'm assuming we do, but I've to start Act II yet).



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




    LizzieAnn wrote:
    I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth. They held out a prize, temptation before him, but it was he who chose to act on it. They tell him that he will be king - but they don't say of what, when, where, or how. Macbeth decides that to be king he has to murder Duncan now. The weird sisters/witches throw out something that would appeal to an amibitious man like Macbeth - but the choice and actions are his.



    mef6395 wrote:
    I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

    My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?







    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?

    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?













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    Re: The Weird Sisters

    Doesn't that make him weak, when he is described at the beginning as a 'warrior' and 'brave' etc? Who browbeats him first the three witches or the fourth one?




    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...."



    LizzieAnn wrote:
    I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth. They held out a prize, temptation before him, but it was he who chose to act on it. They tell him that he will be king - but they don't say of what, when, where, or how. Macbeth decides that to be king he has to murder Duncan now. The weird sisters/witches throw out something that would appeal to an amibitious man like Macbeth - but the choice and actions are his.



    mef6395 wrote:
    I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

    My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?







    Inspired Contributor
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    Re: The Weird Sisters

    I have only been dealing with Act I so far - you are ahead of me:smileyhappy: What spell do you now feel they have cast to make him commit regicide?



    LizzieAnn wrote:
    But they do cast spells from their discussion at the beginning of Scene 3. I just don't think they cast this particular one on Macbeth in Act I. What they do later remains to be seen (I'm assuming we do, but I've to start Act II yet).



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




    LizzieAnn wrote:
    I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth. They held out a prize, temptation before him, but it was he who chose to act on it. They tell him that he will be king - but they don't say of what, when, where, or how. Macbeth decides that to be king he has to murder Duncan now. The weird sisters/witches throw out something that would appeal to an amibitious man like Macbeth - but the choice and actions are his.



    mef6395 wrote:
    I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

    My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?










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    Re: The Weird Sisters

    Macbeth is weak, morally. He also may be weak in the intelligence and character departments, etc., as he is apparently so easily swayed by a couple speeches by his wife. Just because he may be brave on the battlefield, please don't automatically confuse that and equate that with braveness in all the different possible fields and aspects off the battlefield. He is apparently a general on the battlefield. He may not have equivalent skills in diplomatic, intelligence, moral, etc., etc., etc., departments off the field.

    I never said who browbeats him first. I merely suggested that he was browbeaten by his wife. But, to answer your question, the 3 witches do not browbeat him. They merely plant the seed in very fertile ground, as I have said in an earlier post. So, by default, it would have to be the 4th one.



    Choisya wrote:
    Doesn't that make him weak, when he is described at the beginning as a 'warrior' and 'brave' etc? Who browbeats him first the three witches or the fourth one?




    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...."



    LizzieAnn wrote:
    I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth. They held out a prize, temptation before him, but it was he who chose to act on it. They tell him that he will be king - but they don't say of what, when, where, or how. Macbeth decides that to be king he has to murder Duncan now. The weird sisters/witches throw out something that would appeal to an amibitious man like Macbeth - but the choice and actions are his.



    mef6395 wrote:
    I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

    My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?










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    Re: The Weird Sisters

    You misunderstand me, especially since I've only read Act I. The spells I'm speaking of are about visiting the wife's sailor, casting up a wind, the bit about the tailless rat, making it so that the sailor wouldn't sleep, tossing the ship.

    I don't think they've cast a spell on Macbeth at all. I think it was more of a tempting thought that they threw at him. They tease him with the idea of being a king, and they never say King of Scotland. Macbeth latches onto to that word & runs with it - king to King of Scotland to King of Scotland now to killing Duncan to achieve it.



    Choisya wrote:
    I have only been dealing with Act I so far - you are ahead of me:smileyhappy: What spell do you now feel they have cast to make him commit regicide?



    LizzieAnn wrote:
    But they do cast spells from their discussion at the beginning of Scene 3. I just don't think they cast this particular one on Macbeth in Act I. What they do later remains to be seen (I'm assuming we do, but I've to start Act II yet).



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




    LizzieAnn wrote:
    I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth. They held out a prize, temptation before him, but it was he who chose to act on it. They tell him that he will be king - but they don't say of what, when, where, or how. Macbeth decides that to be king he has to murder Duncan now. The weird sisters/witches throw out something that would appeal to an amibitious man like Macbeth - but the choice and actions are his.



    mef6395 wrote:
    I tend to agree with Everyman. The power to predict the future would already have qualified as witchcraft and thus evil.

    My take on the Sisters is that they are witches BUT they did not cast a spell on Macbeth. Could that be possible? Can the two go together? Can these witches be such and just limit themselves to foretelling the future and keep themselves from casting spells?













    Liz ♥ ♥


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    Re: The Weird Sisters



    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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    Re: The Weird Sisters



    LizzieAnn wrote:
    I never considered that the 3 cast any spell on Macbeth.

    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.
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    Re: The Weird Sisters



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

    Anybody who's been married knows that what the Missus really wants, she eventually gets. :smileyhappy:
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    Re: The Weird Sisters: Something Wicked?



    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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    Re: The Weird Sisters

    [ Edited ]
    I have posted elsewhere about this. Apparently Shakespeare changed his manuscruipt quite a lot and it was subsequently changed by others. A Dr Forman wrote a contemporary account of the play being performed with 'nymphs' and not witches at the first performance at The Globe in April 1610. However, the later revisions by Middleton and others which include witches, not nymphs, seem to have stuck with us, no doubt because they suited King James I and his obsession with Daemonologie.

    'Macbeth was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The Folio is the only authoritative source for the text but the text has been plainly altered by later hands. Most notable is the inclusion of two songs from Thomas Middleton's later play The Witch, on the basis of which many scholars reject all three of the interludes with the goddess Hecate as inauthentic and added by a later editor, possibly Middleton himself. Even with the Hecate material, the play is conspicuously short, indicating that the Folio text may derive from a promptbook that had been substantially cut for performance.' (Frank Kermode.)




    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 03-09-200709:04 PM

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