The leading evil character requires a big playground and support of other characters with malicious tendencies, and events that portend calamitous situations for accomplishing the objective. Evil knows well that ultimately it has to face defeat, yet it never gives up, chases the noble forces relentlessly, and creates newer designs for achieving its goal. In Macbeth, the three witches were known as the “weird sisters” cast their evil influence on individuals they encounter. They do not see nobility in any character and with their uncanny sense, create problems galore to unleash their malevolent inclinations. Whether the supernatural powers are good or evil depends upon the nature, objectives and time of their intervention in the play.
That the witches truly own supernatural powers is a debatable question, but they are excellent in the art of public relations and thus probe what is going on in the inner world of an individual and use that position to their advantage by striking hard at the most unexpected moment. Their mind is the storehouse of dark thoughts and as such nothing positive or constructive emerges out of them. The impact of their maneuverings on Macbeth is so intense that he becomes a puppet in their hand.
An ambitious man with positive qualities like Macbeth becomes the ideal raw material for the three witches. They have studied the dispositions of Macbeth, know his glorious antecedents and are aware that each and every molecule of Macbeth’s body and soul is surcharged with love, ambition, greed, and religious faith. Such tendencies are fit for the sapling of ego to grow. Just like mosquitoes breed in filth, evil thrives in egoistic hearts. The witches plan Macbeth’s downfall by inflating his ego from all ends.
The three witches succeed in taking charge of the course of Macbeth’s destiny through their motivated predictions and they exploit his religious faithfully. He is unable to exercise his free will and his reasoning power is clouded. Internally he struggles, resists the evil tendencies but his malicious ambition emerges victorious. The three witches have thoroughly convinced him that murder is an inevitable act which he is destined to perform for his future glory. Putting a stamp on his malevolent inner urge for the dastardly act he proclaims, “I go, and it is done: the bell invites me” (Act II, Scene1, 70). With that, his evil saga is launched. He murders King Duncan, Banquo and Macduff’s family. The prediction of the three witches that he will be the king has done the damage.
The wise saying goes ‘Behind a great man, there is a great woman.’ But when this great man, Macbeth is on the wrong side, instead of guiding him to the right course, Lady Macbeth to plays her evil cards effectively. How can it be supposed that she is not aware of the evil counsel (prediction) tendered to her husband by the witches? Her equation with Macbeth was more than intimate, she was his guide and philosopher and she further ignited the fire of greed and ambition in him. The three witches, through did not interact with her directly on this specific issue they knew that she would play her role as she was strong and hardnosed. Divine retribution is in store for her as a reward for her wicked deeds; her conscience affects her to such an extent that she eventually commits suicide.
Macbeth lacks the will and self-confidence and is swayed by the counsels of others, like witches and Lady Macbeth, who is so to say, a de-facto witch. She did not give him the right type of advice at the right time. The three witches knew that Macbeth is the power center and by destroying him, the entire kingdom can be destroyed. Thus they were planning well for the cataclysm to follow. The fate of the king impacts the fate of the entire nation, a generation or generations to come. When the empire suddenly collapses from great heights, people suffer from multiple directions and become directionless and destination less, in the absence of the leader to guide and the one on whom they can pin the hopes of life. The king perishes in the disaster created by him and his people undergo a long period of untold sufferings and those were exactly the dubious intentions of the three witches.
His encounter with the witches is the turning point in the life of Macbeth. Their evil counsel and predictions kindle the fire of ambition in him. The moral dilemma doesn’t end with the murder of Duncan but intensifies. He totally surrenders to the evil by challenging fate and he kills Banquo and his descendants. One evil deed follows the other and he loses his power of discrimination and is engulfed in desire for power. He believes, whatever he does is correct and thus he has become a morally bankrupt individual. In the end, he pays the consequences for his immorality and thus the evil witches succeed in their endeavor of the destruction of the moral fiber of the society and turning wheels of fortune for the state.
The destiny of an individual is far superior to the power of evil forces like witches. The fact that Shakespeare has introduced the witches at the beginning of the play is the pointer to the inclination that the witches will have the commanding influence on the major and minor characters, as the plot is crafted with their evil designs as the foundation stone. Thus with the early induction of the witches, he has created the ground to throw supernatural surprises at regular intervals in the play. Shakespeare firmly places the ladder of supernatural powers by introducing three witches in the pivotal position and other supernatural powers introduced later, like the ghost of Banquo, floating dagger, prophetic apparitions are like the steps of the ladder. Macbeth’s ascent is through this ladder laden with evil prefiguring one after another.
Thus, the witches leave the all-pervading influence on the plot and theme of Macbeth, and other supernatural powers accomplish the supporting role to realize the final target of evil. The supernatural powers are the driving force in the drama that sustains the interest of the readers and keeps the spectators on their toes. They provide the motivation and the dramatic twists to the plot at different intersections.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. London: Dover Thrift Editions, 1993. Print