cue the encounter. The murder of King Duncan
cue readers’ attention to the suspense and involvement of the supernatural. The use of witches, apparitions and ghosts provide important elements in making the play interesting. Examining certain scenes of the play, it can be determined that as supernatural occurrences develop, Macbeth reflects a darker self-image.
Macbeth experiences his first strange encounter of the supernatural when he meets the three witches in act one, scene one. After learning of his prophecies to become king, Macbeth states, “Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: The greatest is behind (still to come).” (1.3.117-118). Shakespeare uses foreshadowing, a literary technique, to suggest to his readers the character Macbeth will suffer a personality change. Macbeth also implies his first notions of plotting an evil scheme by this comment. After the prophecies of the witches revealed the fate of Macbeth, the quest of the throne will be his next victory. “The witches reveal a fate for Macbeth and imply that a part of what will come to him must come, but they reveal no fate of evil-doing for him and never, even by suggestion, bind him to evil doing. “, states literary critic Willard Furnham. Furnham declares the only power the witches obtain over Macbeth is the power of insinuation. By offering to Macbeth the idea of power, the witches push Macbeth to the next level of greed and evil that did not exist prior to the encounter.
The murder of King Duncan initiates Macbeth’s second encounter with the supernatural when he witnesses a floating dagger. As Macbeth awaits the signal to make his way up the stairs, he sees the floating dagger and proclaims, ” Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, fatal vision, sensible (able to be felt) to feeling as to sight, or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?” (2.2.33-38). This apparition confuses and frightens Macbeth. He can not comprehend how he can see something and not be able to touch it. “Thou leads me the way I was going; and such an instrument I was to use. And on thy blade and hilt, drops of blood which was not so before. There’s no such thing. It is bloody business which takes shape.” (2.2.43-49) Here, Macbeth begins to question whether his mind is playing tricks on him. The situation seems quite coincidental considering he is minutes from murdering a man with a similar weapon. He states the apparition takes place due to the bloody business about to occur. The dagger symbolizes the point of no return for Macbeth. If he chooses the path in which the dagger leads, there will be no turning back.
Macbeth fears Banquo due to his prophecy to father kings, so Macbeth proceeds to plot the murder of his once friend, which spurs yet another brush with the supernatural. Macbeth attends a banquet at which he witnesses the ghost of his dead friend. (3.4.37-145) The fortunes of the three witches sparked Macbeth’s desire to murder Banquo and caused him to dig himself into a deeper hole. Macbeth’s guilt and fear combined drive him to darker and more evil actions in an attempt to cover his past misdeeds. “What man dare, I dare. Approach though like the rugged Russian bear, the armed rhinoceros, or th’ Hyrcan tiger; Take any shape but that (Banquo) and my firm nerves shall never tremble.” (3.4.100-104) Macbeth feels frightened at the sight of the bloody ghost haunting him and is angered that the ghost revealed it self to him. His guilt causes him to proclaim he could take on a rhino, tiger or any other wild animal, but not Banquo’s ghost. After his encounter with the ghost, Macbeth proceeds to visit the witches one last time to insure his security. After this last visit, Macbeth becomes overconfident and a tyrant, which cause his downfall.
The use of supernatural in Macbeth, provides the suspenseful nature of his work. Without the witches, apparitions and the ghost, Macbeth could not have reached his downfall. The use of supernatural in Macbeth caused Macbeth to become a darker and more evil person with each paranormal encounter.
Farnham,Willard. “The Witches.” 20th Century Interpretations of Macbeth Ed. Terence Hawkes. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc., 1982 p.61-62
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