The Witches

In Macbeth, what are the witches?

They are, of course, witches (duh). But what are their powers?

They can control nature (“give thee a wind” [I.iii.11], and “shall be tempest-tossed” [I.iii.25]). But there seems to be limits: the First Witch admits that the sailor’s “bark cannot be lost” (I.iii.24).

So they cannot kill?

Well, they do not kill from what we’ve seen.

But are they malevolent?

They are, of course, especially against those who have insulted them, witness the sailor who they will “drain…dry as hay. // Sleep shall neither night or day // Hang upon his penthouse lid” (I.iii.18-20).

But are they malevolent against Macbeth?

I would argue no.

At no point do they do anything (at least none that we see on the page) that causes Macbeth injury or harm. They offer information, but what he does with it is his alone.

Tomorrow, let’s talk about what information they deliver…

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