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Module 1: Macbeth Act One

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Act one, scene one

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English - Act one, scene one

Act one, scene one

The presence of the three witches on stage, at the time when the play
was first performed, would have immediately shocked audiences and provided
them with an idea of what was to come in the play.

Scene one of _Macbeth_ begins with thunder and lightning. Not only does
the roar of thunder and the clap of lightning startle audiences into
attention, it also creates the atmosphere for the play to proceed.

Belief in the existence and the power of witches was widely believed in
Shakespeare's day. During Elizabethan times witches were commonly
associated with darkness and death, as they considered to be
representations of evil. The practice of witchcraft was seen to corrupt the
established order of society and religion. Witch hunting was actively
pursued with an estimated nine million women in Europe put to death for
being perceived as witches. Although this may be lost on some modern
audiences it is important for you to think about what Shakespeare was
trying to achieve and how it introduces us to the themes of the play. The
belief of the majority during the seventeenth century suggests that the
witches were powerful figures who could exercise great power over Macbeth.

The intensity of the tragedy is dependant on whether the witches are
recognised as being commanders of Macbeth's actions, or if he is
responsible for his own demise. The witches talk about meeting Macbeth when
the battle is over. The thunder, lightning and the witches mentioning his
name all indicate that Macbeth is going to encounter some trouble. In
addition to this introduction of evil, the theme of deception is introduced
with the famous lines:

'FAIR IS FOUL, AND FOUL IS FAIR,
HOVER THROUGH THE FOG AND THE FILTHY AIR' (1,1,lines 9-10)

Indicating that things are not always what they seem.

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