Supernatural And Evil In Macbeth
Everyone has a slightly different interpretation of the supernatural but the interpretation which we can start with is Shakespeare’s. Everyone of Shakespeare’s time found the supernatural fascinating. Shakespeare interpreted the supernatural as witches, magic, unnatural and evil and he expressed his beliefs in the play, “Macbeth” very clearly, as he portrayed the three deformed women with their ability to control the weather and predict the future. These three evil witches with magical powers were the creation of Shakespeare’s interpretation of the supernatural. Shakespeare’s contemporaries believed in the supernatural very strongly and a majority of them were frightened of it, including the king of that time, King James I of England. Since it was an interesting issue which many people of Shakespeare’s time felt they were affected by, Shakespeare wrote about it. “Macbeth” with its supernatural theme was the 17th century’s equivalent to the modern day horror movie.
The play begins with the three witches meeting and giving the reader many clues as to who they are or what they have control over stating, “when will we three meet again in thunder, lighting or in rain?….When the battle’s lost and won….That will be ere the set of sun….There to meet with Macbeth.”
This dark and dreary scene sets the atmosphere for the rest of the play. Certainly, Shakespeare chose to open with this scene for good reason. If this scene was not the opening to the play, it would be difficult for the audience to understand how later scenes are linked or how these three women can tell Macbeth’s future. Also if the same elements of the supernatural were not used in Act 1 Scene 1, as they were, the witches would not as easily be shown as such sinister and evil characters. These two elements of horror, “sinister” and “evil” would later be used to explain the cause of the three witches’ behavior.
As the play continues the supernatural is increasingly emphasized. Act 1 Scene 3 brings about Macbeth’s first meeting with the witches. This scene is also the first time the reader or audience experiences the witches’ supernatural abilities. They greet Macbeth with a prophetic, “All hail to thee, Thane of Cowdor, All hail, Macbeth That shalt be king hereafter”. Macbeth questions the greeting and the witches explain what lies in Macbeth’s future. They tell him that he shall become the Thane of Cowdor and then king of Scotland. The rest of the play itself is reliant upon this first supernatural encounter. After learning that Macbeth is to become King of Scotland the play follows Macbeth’s blunderous plan to get rid off King Duncan and the repercussions of his horrible deed.
After meeting with Ross, who confirms that Macbeth is now in fact Thane of Cowdor, Macbeth begins to strongly believe the witches’ predictions. King Duncan is to stay at Macbeth’s castle to honor his new title and his heroism on the battlefield. Macbeth is overwhelmed at hearing this and travels ahead of the King to warn his wife of King Duncan’s arrival the following day. Lady Macbeth is unwavering in her desire to attain royal title, and convinces her husband that they will murder the King during his stay. Again the supernatural is brought to the attention of the reader during such a dark and horrific point in the story when lady Macbeth appears to sell her soul in order to commit the murder. “ Is this a dagger I see before me”, Macbeth himself is also effected by the supernatural once again when he has a vision of a dagger just before he is to murder the King.
This surreal vision of dagger is another example of the supernatural. The dagger encourages and almost urges Macbeth to commit the deed. Although it is meant to encourage Macbeth to murder Duncan, it also shows the audience that what Macbeth is about to do is evil in nature. Shakespeare uses the supernatural throughout the play with a strict association to evil or unnatural things. The supernatural becomes more noticeably associated with evil as the play progresses.
After Macbeth kills Duncan in his sleep, and pins the crime on the guards, both Duncan’s sons flee to England fearing for their own lives. This leaves none more worthy than Macbeth to fill Duncan’s position and take the thrown as King of Scotland. The only obstacle now remaining in Macbeth’s path is his close friend Banquo. It was Banquo and not Macbeth whom the witches prophesied would be the father to many kings. Banquo, having been present at Macbeth’s first meeting with the witches, greatly suspects Macbeth of Duncan’s murder, “Thou hast it now… As the weird women promised, and I fear, thou play’dst most foully for ’t” he tells his friend of his new position. Banquo, all but accusing Macbeth of the King’s murder. By saying “Thou play’dst foully for ’t”, Banquo is clearly suggesting that Macbeth has committed a wrongful deed in order to achieve his Kingship. This causes Banquo to fear for his own safety, because the witches also predicted his future saying, “Thou shalt get Kings, though thou be none.”
Banquo is told that although he will not become a King; he shall be the father of many Kings. This is a problem for Macbeth because the only way Banquo’s children will become Kings is if the present King, Macbeth, dies. Macbeth has become increasingly paranoid since committing his foul deed of being murdered and being discovered as Duncan’s murderer. He orders three murderers to kill Banquo. Macbeth obviously does not expect Banquo to attend his feast that night, but Banquo does attend as a ghost. Once again Shakespeare uses the supernatural in conjunction with another act of evil and to further illustrate Macbeth’s fear and guilt as the evil inside him grows and drives him mad. As Macbeth is about to sit down at his table with his wife and his noble guests, he sees the ghost of Banquo already sitting in his chair. Macbeth accuses his guests of some kind of trickery, asking them, “Which of you have done this?” and begins to speak of the Devil, murder, and blood shed (3.4.49). The words of their king seem to upset the guests as they finally leave the feast wishing him good health on their way out. This supernatural happening is very important, since it is one of the first signs of Macbeth’s fear and guilt caused by his deeds.
Beyond this scene the play becomes even more sinister and the atmosphere becomes even more cold, dark, and evil. Macbeth slaughters all that seem to oppose his Kingship. The brutal slaying of Macduff’s wife and child is reported by Ross to Macduff and the others in England. As if he has not filled himself with enough evil, Macbeth goes to meet the witches once more. This time they conjure up supernatural apparitions followed by vague riddles and details to answer his questions. At first these apparitions do not alarm Macbeth, but as he continues to contemplate the apparitions he feels there is something darker about them. Shakespeare uses the craftily worded explainations of the witches and their supernatural apparitions to enhance the presence of evil in the play.
These supernatural apparitions are as important as the earlier predictions made by the witches. They allow for the display of several startling habits which Macbeth has fallen into since his first meeting with the witches. This scene clearly demonstrates how Macbeth no longer follows his own instincts, rather choosing to rely completely on the supernatural witches to guide him. These apparitions, and Macbeth’s strict belief in them are the major cause of Macbeth’s downfall. He relied on the supernatural so much that he lost his own strength and will. He becomes crazed and overly confident by the witches promises and prophesies. Like an addict is loyal to his drug, Macbeth trusts solely in the witches to guide him. He no longer acts with care or tact, the characteristics which would have made him an able warrior, but clings to the illogical comfort of a supernatural promise. This arrogance and carelessness caused by his reliance on the witches are what ultimately cause Macbeth to be overconfident when he confronts Macduff on the battlefield. The apparitions are also important because they allow Shakespeare to express his view on the nature of the supernatural. Shakespeare demonstrates to the audience and reader alike that the supernatural is evil and can destroy even the strongest of people. This is the last meeting between Macbeth and the witches before the play ends and also the last times any supernatural things occur.
Although Lady Macbeth seems to have a stronger mental character than her husband at the start of the play, she ultimately ends up suffering from remorse and guilt as well. She feels, “Tis safer to be that which we destroy than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy”. Showing that she herself lives in a state of luxurious paranoia or “doubtful joy.” This quote from Lady Macbeth shows how even the most desperate of people regret relying on the supernatural. At the beginning of Act 5 Scene 1 Macbeth is informed of Lady Macbeth’s death. Macbeth shows no emotion or remorse at this news, suggesting that he has become completely dehumanized by his actions throughout the play. This scene, though it is not directly linked with the supernatural, shows how much Macbeth has changed due to it.
Macbeth has knowledge of Malcom’s army moving in to attack his castle and has ordered his army also to attack. Shakespeare finishes the play very dramatically with Macbeth being Slain by Macduff, and Malcom being crowned as the rightful King of Scotland. This is the third and final apparition which was given to Macbeth by the witches. Just like the others, this apparition has also come true. The little child with a crown on his head in the apparition is meant to be Malcolm once he has been crowned the rightful King of Scotland. The significance of the tree which was held by the child in the apparition is, the wood in which Malcolm hid his army in the days before the final battle.
At the start of the play Macbeth is portrayed as a tactful and intelligent soldier, worthy of leading Scotland as its king. By the end of the play none of these skills or characteristics are evident in Macbeth. The evil supernatural forces which he subjected his will to made Macbeth lose these virtuous characteristics. Macbeth caused his own destruction when opened himself to evils and relied on the supernatural to guide him.