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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Macbeth's Witches
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1750  Friday, 13 July 2001

[1]     From:   Jane Drake Brody <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 10:51:27 EDT
        Subj:   Macbeth's Witches

[2]     From:   Takashi Kozuka <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 16:12:08
        Subj:   Re: Macbett (Witches)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jane Drake Brody <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 10:51:27 EDT
Subject:        Macbeth's Witches

As my fundamentalist sister would assure us, the witches in Macbeth are
evil because they predict the future.  From her point of view, which is
surely closer to the predominant view of the Renaissance, foretelling
the future is an affront to God as He is the only way to Truth.  Oh
sure, a prophet, who is, of course, a Christian or a worthy
pre-Christian, and who is also a man, is exempt from this sin.  I am not
exactly sure of the precise biblical injunction concerning the
sinfulness of conjuring and asking my born-again sister is far too
tiresome at this time of the morning.  Perhaps someone else knows.

Jane Drake Brody

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Takashi Kozuka <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 16:12:08
Subject:        Re: Macbett (Witches)

In (another) classic debate about whether or not the three witches lead
Macbeth to the evil actions, Marcia Eppich argues:

>The very presence of witches is a matter of sensationalism. A thrill for
>the Elizabethan audience, if you will.

I'm not sure exactly what Marcia means by these terms, but I believe
that the presence of witches on the Jacobean stage was more than
"sensationalism" and/or "thrill" to the audience.

Witches were (thought to be) real to Elizabethans and Jacobeans (as
vampires are real to Buffy -- OK, it's a bad comparison, but hopefully
some SHAKSPEReans find it funny...) As we know, King James showed great
interest in demonology and witchcraft and himself wrote *Daemonology*
(1597). He also summoned women said to be witches before him. Witches
were persecuted both in Scotland and in England (as well as on the
Continent), and persecution even spread to America.

The contemporary audience, therefore, would have responded to the
presence of witches -- whether on or off stage -- in different ways --
on rational, emotional, psychological levels, etc. -- from many of us
who live in the 21st century, and we might not be able to comprehend
their reactions accurately.

Marcia also claims:

>The weird sisters do not suggest a course of action for Macbeth.

I disagree. They may; they may not. We are not so sure (at least *I* am
not) about *to what degree* the witches influence Macbeth. Contemporary
sources suggest that Elizabethans and Jacobeans believed that witches
could lead others to evil actions. Witches were said to serve the Devil,
and "in the end, they had seduced by their sorcery a numbers of others
to be as bad as themselves" ("News from Scotland", 1591). This parallels
what Banquo says to Macbeth in 1.3.120-124 (the Norton Shakespeare).

I shall stop here, because one can write a book on this topic, and there
was a discussion on it on SHAKSPER before. But those who are interested
in the topic can read some of the books which Evelyn Gajowski has kindly
recommended in his/her posting.

Best witches... I mean Best "wishes",
Takashi Kozuka

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