Lady Macbeth and the Three Witches: Dark, Similar, Dominant and Influencing
Shakespeare’s Macbeth introduces female characters that seem atypical from the traditional gentle females of literature. Both the witches and Lady Macbeth are sinister women, associated with ominous weather, bad deeds, and corrupt morals. The play’s setting in the 11th century, a time where women were undoubtedly subjugated to male superiors, makes the witches and Lady Macbeth seem anomalous with women of the Middle Ages who faced complete male domination. In Macbeth these roles are reversed, as it is the women who hold the reigns, taking on masculine roles and dictating action, to the point that even their physical traits appear androgynous. These women are so wicked, to the point that their evilness in contagious, as they are able to turn a once noble Macbeth into a blood-thirsty monster.
The stage directions heralding the first appearance of the three witches indicates a storm, “thunder and lightning;” by opening the play with a storm Shakespeare sets a dark tone not only for the play, but also the women of the play. As thunder and lightning are generally regarded as frightening, the dark weather coinciding with the witches’ introduction immediately associates them as dark and wicked characters. In keeping with this image, after their first meeting the witches plan again to meet in darkness: the First Witch suggests the next meeting be in “thunder, lightning, or in rain” (I. 1. 2) while the second witch declares the location to be “upon the heath” (I. I. 7), in a dark forest. In fact, the stage directions indicate thunder each time the witches appear. In addition to the stage directions indication of foul weather, the first day Macbeth encounters the witches he states: “so foul and fair a day I have not seen.” (I. 3. 36.). This association with women and ominous weather is one of the ways Shakespeare associates women with darkness throughout the play.