A key aspect of a shakespearean tragedy is the supernatural and throughout Macbeth, many supernatural elements are present.The supernatural is an essential part of the plot throughout Macbeth. It provides a catalyst for action, an insight into characters, and impacts many important scenes. The use of supernatural elements occurs right at the start of Macbeth, with witches. In the first act of the play there are three weird sisters who wish to meet with Macbeth once the battle that is going on comes to an end.
After sundown they meet up with Macbeth and his friend, Banquo. They present them both with a series of prophecies. The three sisters say to Macbeth, “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!..
.All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!…All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” (1.
3.49-50). The weird sisters who only appear in darkness, are one of Shakespeare’s classic ways of catching the audience’s attention and of also setting the mood for the play. Also during his time people were tortured and mistreated for being witches, so this can be thought of as an early form of mockery. Their language in the play imitates the casting of a spell, which conveys an impression of the supernatural in their speech.
The witches play a big role as they are what drive Macbeth to his cruel ways. The weird sisters show Macbeth his fate through the prophecies and are responsible for awakening his ambition, which leads to the killing of many. The witches are a symbol of evil, and Shakespeare uses the fear of the devil to add a eerie atmosphere and haunting effect to the play.
Macbeth refers to the witches as “instruments of darkness”, which can mean there is no good. Not only does Shakespeare use witches in this play he also includes ghosts. In the third act of the play, there is a feast that is going on in Macbeth’s castle to celebrate him becoming king. Right before the feast Macbeth hires murderers to kill Banquo when he goes off with his son, Fleance. While at the feast Macbeth in his head sees Banquo’s ghost sitting in his spot.”Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that which might appal the devil” (3.4.
70-7), Macbeth says out loud to the ghost. Banquo’s ghost is making Macbeth guilty, and while it is invisible to others it is a terrifying reality for Macbeth, therefore he compares it to the devil. This supernatural presence is significant in the play as it contributes to Macbeth’s turning point as a king. The ghost haunts Macbeth by reminding him of the awful things that he has done in order to be king and the innocent blood he betrayed. Macbeth let’s his troubled conscience control him and force him to face what has been done. After the ghost and the witches play with Macbeth’s mind, he then gets faced by three apparitions.
Further on in the play, Macbeth finds his way to the witches’ cave and demands to know what is yet to come. The three witches huddle around a cauldron and produce the three apparitions.The first apparition appears and says, “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff, Beware the Thane of Fife” (4.1.
77-79). The second apparition tells Macbeth no man born of women can harm him and the last apparition tells him that he will never be defeated until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. The apparitions themself are not good presences and only cause more harm to Macbeth.These apparitions convinced Macbeth that this was his fate and he became over confident, and lead himself to his death.
Without the witches, the ghost, and the apparitions, Macbeth would have been a dull and tiresome play. Each incident is somehow led by the supernatural, which is a key aspect to Shakespeare’s tragedies. Although Macbeth has many supernatural elements you cannot have a Shakespearean tragedy without the absence of poetic justice.