If you’ve been to high school, you’ve probably read Macbeth. If you haven’t, you’ve heard of it. If you haven’t, who even are you, and why do you live in isolation? I loved Macbeth, which sounds basic, but I loved it because the language was off the chain beautiful and because it’s got witches. I love witches—the magic, the mystery, the outfits. Never have I ever seen witches in media and not fallen in love with them. But the witches from Macbeth are by far my favorites, and some of the coolest characters in media ever. Let me explain.
Evidence the first: They were, at the time, a smart political device used by Shakespeare. In 1606 when the play was first written and performed, witches were the talk of every town. Who was a witch? What would they do? How do we stop them?
With the church being pretty much the only power everywhere, witchcraft became a capital offence and many women were executed with no proof that they were actually witches. Can you imagine minding your own damn business and some local police roll in and kill you because Prudence next door said she saw you near a frog one time? Because that’s what it was like. Women would be accused of witchcraft for any reason, including not having enough children, or living at the edge of your community.
So, with witches being the fear and talk of the town, Shakespeare made the inspired move to have three of them not only in his play, but open his play. The three witches meet on a heath and discuss meeting Macbeth in an open field when the battle is over. This would have captured the attention of his audience immediately, with both fear and curiosity.
Evidence the second: Who doesn’t love magic and who isn’t curious about the occult? These three haggard women show up talking about screwing up Macbeth’s life with an ill-fated prophecy, then they talk about a grey cat and toad (both of which are symbols for the devil). Then they get down to gossiping about a woman with chestnuts and how they’re just going to screw up her husband’s whole situation and get him lost at sea!
That’s power. And not just power—needless power. They don’t have to do that, but they want to, and we never learn a concrete reason as to why. Evil for the sake of evil? Now that’s cool, and an absolute rarity today in media. Everyone needs a reason, but in life there isn’t a reason for everything. So we are left to our little mysteries, and Macbeth provides.
Evidence the third: Their presence in the play, in any reimagining of it, is always super cool. My personal favorite is the Patrick Stewart 2010 version where the witches appear as nurses and show up throughout the story. Their lingering presence gives the audience the feeling that Macbeth and his surrounding partners are putting on a performance for the witches, and not the real audience. In Geoffrey Wright’s 2006 version, they are school girls, first seen having a ritual in a graveyard. But if you’re old school, they are as they were first depicted: ancient, strange women in the 1971 version by Roman Polanski. There’s a witch for everyone, and with Halloween quickly descending, why not make finding your favorite a mission?
So, the three witches were politically created, powerful, mysterious, and always end up being badass. The play is one of Shakespeare’s most famous, no doubt with a little help from the witches and their charm. So the big question is: when will you buckle down and revisit a high school classic?
Shannon Morrow is always curious, and as a result, loves knowing all sorts of things. A second year professional writing student, she enjoys telling people about her weird dreams, birds and trying to learn how to cook- that one isn’t going too well. And yeah, she knows her glasses make her look like a beetle sometimes. Roll with it.