Act I, Scene iii
The witches are back from doing their thing: killing pigs, placing curses on a sailor whose wife angered them. They encounter Macbeth and Banquo on the heath as the two soldiers return from battle. The witches, a.k.a. the Weird Sisters, make three prophecies:
1) Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor. Promotion!
2) Then he’ll become king. Details here are vague.
3) Banquo will never rule in Scotland, but he’ll father a line of future kings.
The witches disappear. Ross and Angus arrive with the message that the king has given Macbeth the thaneship of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo can’t believe it: the first prophecy has come true.
Additional Text Notes
Comment: In witchcraft, 9 was the
diameter of a perfect circle, which was needed to
cast powerful spells.
Comment: The three Weird Sisters are casting a spell over the fate of the man.
Comment: Watch for the three-fold prophecy
Comment: Literally, Banquo neither beg favors
nor fears hate; this characterizes Banquo as a foil to
Macbeth, who is entranced by the witches; the use of
parallel syntax heightens the impact of the paradox.
Comment: The paradoxical nature of the
prophecy indicates several things. First, like Greek
prophecies, it may so difficult to interpret as to be
meaningless to the hearer. Second, while it can be
literally true, its purpose is to mislead the hearer into
evil actions. The dual nature of the prophecy serves
to highlight the contrast between Banquo and
Macbeth. Banquo realizes the dangerous nature of
the witches’ prophecies and tries to convince
Macbeth of it.
Comment: The witches' words are either cryptic and/or ambiguous
Comment: Sinel was Macbeth’s father
Comment: Macbeth wants to know what/who their sources are for this information? He is looking for worldly sources.
Comment: corporal - bodily
Comment: "post with post" - as fast as possible
Comment: Ross' news of the immediate fulfillment of
part of the prophecy leads Macbeth into thinking that
the entire prophecy is accurate as he sees it.
Comment: Reference to the witches, who are allied
with the devil.
Comment: Macbeth is often portrayed as
wearing garments that do not fit him, i.e. he is an
imposter. This particular metaphor furthers the larger
metaphors of deception as acting that are seen
throughout the play.
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