Supernatural Affect on Macbeth
From the beginning of the production, Macbeth’s actions were driven by supernatural catalysts. It “provides a catalyst for action” (Field of Themes) throughout the play. The witches prophesize that has he will eventually be king. He is overcome by emotions and is pushed to make decisions that lead him into a nasty descent into madness. He kills King Duncan and Banquo, along with other innocent souls that turn him into the power hungry and unstable being that he dies as in the end of the play. This one supernatural encounter is the first domino that causes all others to fall. It sets the scene and tone for the remainder of the play, and without it, the story of Macbeth would be a completely different play.
Macbeth is defined to the public and himself by his own paranormal visions. When Macbeth discovers the ghost of Banquo at the banquet sitting in his seat, the surrounding population of his court sees a glimpse of the true Macbeth, driven to madness by grief. However there are other visions, such as the dagger hallucination while killing King Duncan, which lead him to losing his sanity. This vision not only defines his new mental state to the audience, but shows Macbeth, himself, that he is not well. The supernatural apparitions that haunt Macbeth, paint a clearer picture of the man he has become and “augment the impact of many key scenes”(Yale Shakespeare).
One of the final three apparitions comes to Macbeth and tells him that no man of woman birth will be able to kill him. This prophecy makes him think that he is invincible and can be argued to affect the entire finale of the play. Because of this supernatural apparition, Macbeth gains complete confidence and kills his way through hordes of soldiers until his final battle with Macduff when he succumbs to his death. Without this supernatural encounter, Macbeth might not have survived as far as he did. He might not have even fought or participated in the war. This vision gives him a false confidence that carries him though the fight of his life and without it, the play might have ended completely different.
Departement of English, Yale University. The Yale Shakespeare. Ed. Wilbur L. Cross and Tucker Brooke. New Haven: Yale University Press, n.d.
Royal Shakespeare Company. 2014. 2015 <https://www.rsc.org.uk/downloads/rsc_macbeth_themes_2011.pdf>.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Shane Weller. London: Dover Thrift Editions, 1993.
Field of Themes . Supernatural in Shakespeare's Macbeth . 2014 . esupernatural. 21 February 2015 <http://www.field-of-themes.com/shakespeare/essays/Esupernatural.htm>.
The Sinister Effect of the Supernatural in Macbeth
Shakespeare's use of supernatural elements such as the theory of divine right, the uncharacteristic behavior of nature, and the witches are vital details that exploit the dark and dreary nature of the play.
Shakespeare uses the theory of divine right in Macbeth in order to manipulate a series of events, which creates the ominous direction of the play. "The theory claimed that kings were answerable only to God and it was therefore sinful for their subjects to resist them" (Simkin). This concept is apparent in the play when Macbeth brutally dethrones the King himself. Since Duncan was supposedly appointed by God to rule, this unnatural and forced removal of power sets off a chain reaction of supernatural occurrences. These events set a menacing tone to the tragedy that is considered to be one of Shakespeare's darkest and most prevailing works.
Macbeth’s assassination of Duncan destroys the divine order in Scotland, resulting in supernatural disturbances that plague nature as well. This is evident when an owl is spotted killing a falcon, which is completely outlandish and unnatural. “If things in nature stands for things in human life, King Duncan was the falcon, and Macbeth the owl” (Weller). Not much later, Duncan’s horses wrecked their stalls and allegedly ate each other, something almost unfathomable. Nature is indisputably out of sorts, as depicted by the disconcerting happenings that mar its equilibrium.
The witches’ supernatural powers play a defining role in shaping the portentous disposition that the Macbeth possesses. When the three witches gather in Act I Scene I of the play, there is a wicked storm, likely conjured by the witches. A dreadful storm is whipped up yet again to torture a sailor when his wife spurned one of the witches’ requests for chestnuts. And even ghastlier, the witches conjure disturbing spirits, including a bloody child, to deliver to Macbeth misleading insights in Act IV Scene I. These dark and evil incidents vibrantly reflect the play’s lack of moral character and gloom.
Simkin, John. "Divine Right of Kings." August 2014. Spartacus Educational. Web. 20 February 2015.
Weller, Philip. "Macbeth Navigator: Themes: Nature and the Unatural." n.d. Shakespeare Navigators. Web. 20 February 2015.
- SE and AL