8) Act I Scene 1 – Three witches prophesy that they will meet with Macbeth

Summary 1) Three witches meet in the middle of a storm 2) They speak in riddles and rhymes using strange language such as ‘hurly-burly’3) They are preparing to entice Macbeth ‘upon the heath’ although they don’t explain their intentions 4) A sense of foreboding is created by their choral lines that set up the theme of deception where ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’
Why is this scene important? 1) It immediately grabs our attention with its dramatic nonrealism 2) It raises our sense of curiosity and expectancy 3) It establishes the importance of supernatural powers in the play
Foreboding/ominous Giving a worrying impression that something bad is going to happen
Key setting – ominous 1) The opening scene of the play is brief, but effective in creating an ominous atmosphere.2) The stage directions ask for ‘Thunder and lightning’ and this weather disturbance reflects the evil, disruptive nature of the witches.3) Shakespeare heightens this atmosphere by starting the scene with a question ‘When shall we three meet again?’ This implies that the witches have prior experience of casting malevolent spells.4) The air is ‘filthy’ and this also suggests dark deeds are about to happen – the audience’s imagination is captured.
How does Shakespeare present the witches? 1) Shakespeare presents the witches as ambiguous creatures. 2) In Act I scene 3 they refer to themselves as ‘The Weird Sisters’3) Their evil nature is revealed in the final rhyming couplet of this scene where they offer the contrary idea that ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’ – good is bad and bad is good.4) Shakespeare suggests that the witches violate the natural order of things by meddling with right and wrong.
Key context – witchcraft 1) In the 1600s it was common to think that witchcraft was real. 2) Shakespeare’s patron, King James I, believed in witchcraft, and during his reign practising it was a crime punishable by death3) The rhyming language and alliteration of the witches’ speech reminds us of a spell and a contemporary audience would have found their contradictory claim that ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ particularly unnerving.
What does the play start with? Thunder and lightning
What does thunder and lightning do? 1) Sets a dark and violent mood2) The wild weather hints that unnatural events are occuring
Why is it important that the three witches are the first characters on stage? 1) It shows how important the theme of supernatural is to the play2) The witches are mysterious – we don’t know what their purpose is
What do the witches speak in? Rhyming couplets
Example of a rhyming couplet ‘When the hurly-burly’s done/When the battle’s lost and won’
Who consistently use rhyme? Only the supernatural characters
Why do only the supernatural characters in the play consistently use rhyme? It sets them apart from the other characters and makes their speech sound unnatural as if they’re casting an evil spell
Paradox A statement that contradicts itself
What do the witches speak in as well as rhyming couplets? Paradoxes
Example of paradox ‘When the battle’s lost and won’
What effect does the witches speaking in paradoxes have? At first they don’t make any sense but their predictions become clearer as the play goes on
Theme – reality and appearances (quote) 1) The witches introduce the idea that nothing is as it seems 2) ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’3) This theme is central to the play
How is a sense of foreboding created? By the witches’ choral likes that set up the theme of deception where ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’
What atmosphere does the opening scene create even though it is brief? Ominous atmosphere
Stage directions – ‘Thunder and lightning’ – what does this suggest? 1) The weather disturbance reflects the evil, disruptive nature of the witches 2) Suggests the havoc that Scotland is about to experience
How does Shakespeare heighten the atmosphere? He starts the scene with a question – ‘When shall we three met again?’
What question does Shakespeare start the scene with? ‘When shall we three meet again?’
‘When shall we three meet again?’ The witches have prior experience of casting malevolent spells
The air is ‘filthy’ Suggests dark deeds are about to happen – the audience’s imagination is captured
How is the witches’ evil nature revealed? In the final rhyming couplets of this scene they offer the contrary idea that good is bad and vice versa
What does Shakespeare suggest about the witches? That they violate the natural order of things by meddling with right and wrong
What is the rhythm the witches are speaking in called? Trochaic tetrameter
What does trochaic tetrameter do? 1) Creates a chant-like rhythm 2) Creates the impfezsjon that they are one being; adding to their strangeness
What is there a lexis of? Nature
How is there a lexis of nature and the weather/imagery? Quotes 1) ‘In thunder, lightning, or in rain?’2) ‘the set of sun’3) ‘Hover Through the fog and filthy air’
What does imagery/a lexis of nature and the weather suggest? The witches can control the elements; one of the powers witches were believed to have had by jacobeans
Contradictory statements – two suggestions 1) Conveys the obscurity and occult nature of the witches 2) Suggest a paradox that runs through the play; life presents a confused picture of events in which distinguishing right from wrong is difficult – foreshadowing?
Graymalkin, paddock Grey cat, toadBoth ‘familiars’ – Spirit friends who look like animals

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