Comments and Criticism about “Macbeth” Play and Article in Relation with Witchcraft

Comments and Criticism about "Macbeth" Play and Article in Relation with Witchcraft

The strange creatures who do not seem to be from this planet, called "virago", or witches, are a very peculiar point of Macbeth, because they are mysterious and people want to know about them.

Many times, they manipulate the destiny of people, like Macbeth's and his wife's, because they believe them so much, even to carry on all the ideas about the future, since they had the power to predict everything, so that a prophecy is proclaimed.

Macbeth, helped by his wife, and respected by people of his important conquests, was recognized by the king, who wanted his son to be the next monarch, and Macbeth had this same chance to be in Duncan's place for the eternity if he attempted against him. He had such a courage, that nobody even the king, could be dangerous for him. He killed the king! The miserable witches were able to influence people. They prepare "voodoos" and, people believed them to treat animals with their own milk; they are lavish people who presume to have the energies of nature in their own hands, as well as they invert values, like foul and fair; foul, because of the weather, and fair because of the victory. Who are these awful creatures of the devil? Not unsubordinated are the witches considered, but real opposition to all concepts of goodness, God, beauty, youth, and so on. Macbeth is absolutely controlled by them, and if it's not enough, Lady Macbeth deals with the devil, asking him to unsex her, and thicken her blood. She renounces all feminine values. She is equated with a witch, and witchcraft with female rule, overthrowing of patriarchy and authority. When mentioning the word "power" some more information is required to clarify this idea. During the Reign of James I, political background of instability witch-hunting was used by the Monarch, to legitimate and establish authority and demonize dissidence. So witchcraft was an instrument of social utility.

The General was not happy with the conquests, and instead of a comfortable position beneath of this cousin, his ambition drove him mad, so that he was bold enough to kill one of the most important things he had: Honor! He became more confident, as soon as Lady Macbeth started to question his value, considering what a man is. Consumed by all these feelings, and supported by the witches, he, the brilliant General, killed the king while he was sleeping. Only a "bastard" not a person, who has a family, should act like this. Blood, hands, souls and bodies, all was figuring a horror scene. How could the king have so much blood? Spotted hands forever. What kind of man was he? Where has he come from? Has he any mother? Both Malcolm and Donalbain, sons of the king, went out of Scotland to England and Ireland respectively, and the first, helped by Macduff, a nobleman of Scotland, recovers the power, when they finally kill Macbeth. After Macduff's revelation, he knows he is going to die, and realizes that the disgraceful facts that turned his life into hell were not worthwhile. So, the man who was representing God on Earth had the same end of Jesus, but not like a hero. His head was cut!

The tragedy ends with an easy end to Malcolm, to be the king. (He didn't consider himself a recommendable person to be the king. He only tested Macduff with this strategy! The witches prophecy about Macduff, who didn't come to the world by a normal way, and as part of the prophecy, that did not say that he was going to lose all the family, was the one who could end up Macbeth's dream. There is a moment, the audience feels that the witches were stronger than and army of ten thousand men, because Macbeth believed them. When he is ready to die, he admits he was deceived by the witches.

This fantastic story written by William Shakespeare, who wanted to write something special for the king, James I, and also for noblemen, pleased many people, from very different social levels, and it was a mirror of the real situation of the monarchy.

Considering the play, criticism is proper, if one can wonder that it is not clear who Macduff is, until the near end of the play. Lady Macbeth can be equated with a witch, but it is not mentioned that she is one. The witches did not represent evil but they knew about it. Macbeth could be a powerful General instead of an "idiot". The witches did not have the power to make things happen, but scared people about it. Witchcraft was used as an instrument of power.

This article is now focusing comments about the text, "Macbeth and witchcraft" by Peter Stallybrass. According to him, there are critics who accepted the play is witchcraft, only as a form of psychological symbolism, to demonstrate the opposition of the two forces, represented by God and Devil.

There is a tendency to classify exoticism of witchcraft, without explaining the beginning of how such beliefs could ever been held. The witches are considered normal in relation with things they believe. There is no proof about all bad things they say about them, like, practicing sex with their kids or eating them. They were also accused to spread all kinds of evils. They are a variety of society indeed, outcasts of the social life.

The English village witch starts to think seriously about Cosmology, which is the science that studies the energies of the Universe. They were really prosecuted because they were marginalized and lived in poverty. Witchcraft is not considered only reflection of a pre-given order of things, but it is also considered the legitimation of the hegemony of patriarchy.

There is a close relation between witchcraft and monarchy, because at that time, it was used as an instrument of power. Whenever the king noticed that people were rebellious about his desires and orders, even attempting against this life, he considered these people, involved with witchcraft. So, the connection of these three elements, prophecy, witchcraft, and monarchy was evident in XVI and XVII centuries. The witches were considered to manipulate the power of the devil, what is not real, but they influenced people and could get what they wanted, trying to predict facts of people's lives and imagining their future.

There were very important philosophers at that time, like Bodin, Christine Larner, who suggested that James, got in touch with scholars in Denmark in 1589. This fact aroused the interest in witchcraft, associating the devil with an Anti-Christ, glorifying the Monarchy. The devil power manipulated by three witches, attempts to rule over the Earth and the woman paper, over the family and the body over the head, as the author mentions.

Even considering Macbeth and Holinshed, one has to focus the lawful good king and the usurping tyrant, because whatever he did over the limit of his power was also considered in the name of it, even if the attitude was violating human rights. The witches are described, like people who influenced the behavior of the society, providing false confidence and conspiracy against the king.

They are connected with disorder in nature, like fog and filthy air. They are accused to reverse moral values. "Fair is foul and foul is fair". They could foresee the future, even knowing when the battle would be over (sunset). There is an ambiguity, because Macbeth disdains fortune. He is reduced to the image of a dwarfish thief and conceptualized as eating up it until nothing is left.

The witches and Macbeth threaten to bring the world back to its first chaos, as Bolton puts it, creating a very hell upon earth, the hell of a world without sovereignty.

Lady Macbeth asks the Devil to unsex her and this is because a woman was considered inferior, and when she mentions the milk woman's breasts, as the liquid that is a virtue of women, and the negations of it, from Lady Macbeth. She subverts patriarchal authority in a manner typically connected with Witchcraft, suggesting her impotence, considering her husband a coward, and showing a structural antithesis that establishes the relation between women and witchcraft, the undermining of patriarchal authority and sterility. She is an unnatural mother and sterile.

Like the witches, Lady Macbeth and her husband constitute an unholy family, a family whose only children are the murdering ministers.

When the author mentions the development of the relations of Lady Macbeth and witchcraft, there is a very curious aspect to be considered. Lady Macbeth acts, like a person seduced by the devil. Her sleep-walking, as demoniacal somnambulism, and perhaps it can be considered the compunctious of visitations of Nature. It is strange when she asks her husband to go to bed, with the words: "To bed, to bed, to bed". Doesn't it mean that she had a sense of reality? Witchcraft is associated with female rule and the conclusion of the play reestablishes both, the offended father and the father, paradoxically, not born of woman, and the witches can simply disappear, in this context of a miraculous work, the prophetic vision of Banquo, and finally, legitimate king.

Some criticism aspects were observed by the author here commented. If we ought to consider anything is special, it is the concentration of ideas about power, in different levels and forms. Monarchy, a government of absolute power, is controversial, and there are clear evidences of all the necessary articulations and exercises of power, by the soberan, in order to keep it in his hands, even if he or she, had to work with energies that were absolutely out of his or her control, in order to exercise the various forms of power. It is also important to be involved with different personalities when reading about Shakespeare, and also the historical moment that is shown throughout the play. Shakespeare is still contemporary, and he was considered the guiding spirit because he joined several fragments of the society, and also anthropological values to construct a framework. The function of women, constructing rules and values is also a very interesting aspect, considering the conception of women's function in the society. It should be nice to have more information about the reaction of the play among people after it was presented, like if they change values as well as their reactions. There is no limit of these considerations, because they still help to understand this fantastic play that contributed so much to understand the relations of power among the society, reinforcing several values, like religion, monarchy, family, authority and mainly "empowerment", during the 16th and 17th centuries.


Stallybrass, Peter. "Macbeth and witchcraft." Focus on Macbeth. Ed. John Russell Brown. London: Routledge, 1982. 189-209.

Stallybrass, Peter. Avaluable at: <> date: 09/08/2009. THE HISTORICAL MACBETH, by Edward J.Cowan. Avaluable at <> Access: 09/08/2009.


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