The witches

Unlike the other characters of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, we actually get some information about the witches’ physical appearance. In Act 1, Scene 3, Banquo describes them as creatures with “choppy finger[s]” and “skinny lips” (1.3.45-46) that are so “wither’d and so wild in their attire,/ That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth.” (1.3.41-42). They look unnatural, unpleasant and wild. Banquo is also confused about their gender: “You should be women,/ And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/ That you are so.” (1.3.46-48). Their physical appearance immediately tells us that they are not ordinary characters, but are probably something supernatural and evil.

As audience or readers, we get to see what the witches’ inner character is really like. Macbeth and Banquo do not get the same insight. We meet the witches in Act 1, Scene 1, before any of the characters do so, and the fact that there is thunder, lightning, and talk of a battle shows us that these are creatures of the dark.

We meet them again in Act 1, Scene 3, before Banquo and Macbeth enter, and we get to hear the witches speaking of people they plan to revenge themselves on (1.3.4-26) and creating a spell to ensnare Macbeth (1.3.31-38). The same goes for Act 4, Scene 1, where we see them throwing disgusting ingredients into a bubbling cauldron as they are preparing another spell to trick Macbeth (4.1.1-38), who enters next. Again, the presence of thunder underlines the danger associated with the witch...

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