Macbeth-related superstitions

Macbeth Unfolds Witches-Related Superstitions by Mentioning a Sailor’s Fate

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Macbeth-related superstitions
Witches-related superstitions

No one can deny that Macbeth is a strong reflection of human imagination, thought, and superstitions. The Act I, Sc. iii of the said Shakespearean play is an acute example of this truth. It shows how Shakespeare’s Macbeth unfolds witches-related superstitions.

The words between lines 18 to 26 in Act I, Sc. iii have beautifully drawn the required temptation scene in Macbeth. These lines unlock Shakespearean perfection to depict the mood of the play. The words in these lines make readers more addicted to the supernatural awe in the play. They appear with a smell of foretelling the ultimate destiny of the main characters in Macbeth.

                                                 “ I’ll drain him dry as hay:

                                                 Sleep shall neither night nor day

                                                 Hang upon his …………

                                                   …………… a man forbid.


                                                   ……………………. tempest-tost

                                                    Look what I Have “

From the beginning of the play, we can see how three witches tie the main melody of the plot. In this temptation scene, we only renew our acquaintance with these witches once again. There is no denying that the introductory part of the lines mentioned above is a significant continuation of the first scene that infuses the supernatural atmosphere in Macbeth. Every word of the said part appears to recreate that same mystical ambiance.

The lines have clearly described how the first witch has become incensed by one sailor’s wife who declined to give her chestnuts that she begged. In return for her refusal, the witch then expresses her anger. She wants to take revenge by punishing the sailor. The above lines are the words of the witch’s angry expression.

The sorceress is already aware of the sailor’s current whereabouts. She mentions that the sailor is the master of the ship named The Tiger, and his current location is Aleppo. The sorceress confesses that all the winds are under her control. She can even control the sailor’s compass. And, with her extreme power, the witch will torture him. She will cast a spell on him.

The sorceress utters that she will not hesitate to drain all the blood from the sailor’s body and make him pale and dry like hay. His sloping eyelids will never close in sleep, be it day or night. In a word, sleep will desert him forever. The witch’s following words indicate how strong, revengeful motive she acquires to torture the sailor because of his wife’s refusal. She wants to make his life miserable by forcing him to live under a curse. Moreover, the next eighty-one weeks will be highly horrible for the sailor. During this period, he will keep starving, withering, and languishing.

The words make one thing clear that Shakespeare has tried to pen common superstitions of people that have gone on for ages. Even in the era of modern civilization, people still believe in sorceress-related superstitions. And as a playwright, Shakespeare was quite aware of how to use that human notion or belief. Such a skillful thinking style moved him to depict witches-related superstitions as an essential part of the story in Macbeth.

His skillful portrayal of human beliefs with a touch of witches-related superstitions has helped to evoke an atmosphere of evil in the play. He perfectly mentions in Macbeth how witches could do impossible things. How they can dwindle or diminish human life through their witchcraft. 

However, some readers believe that the playwright has also expressed his actual opinion about superstition or sorcery. They think the lines “Though his bark cannot be lost, / Yet it shall be tempest-tost” question the actual existence of witchcraft to some extent. These lines say the sorceress couldn’t have the power to wreck the sailor’s ship entirely. She could only raise a mighty storm on the raging seas to shake the ship heavily. That means, on the one hand, Macbeth unfolds the ongoing human belief on superstitions, and on the other hand, it unlocks the truth that superstition implies the illusion of the human mind.

Today, most people, including the believers in sorcery, know that witchcraft doesn’t exist in the real world. It is the fear of the human mind or imagination that ultimately creates the existence of superstitions. Even Shakespeare also knew it. He was well aware that mentioning this vulnerable spot of the human mind in the plot would inevitably increase the readers’ attraction towards the play. While writing the play, he has perfectly measured the fear of the human mind lurking behind the belief in witches-related superstitions.

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