Queen Anne of Denmark and her husband James I of England. James went to collect his new wife from Denmark and in the North Berwick trials of 1590-2 witches said they had plotted and brought about storms at sea. He called them extreme lyars until one of them repeated the conversation he had had with his wife Anne on their wedding night. They were tortured and executed….
16 th century Essex witch had 3 mice called Littleman, Prettyman and Daynty. Often well looked after, dressed and taught to dance.
Spells use ritual movements and words and specific objects (like thumbs).
Ian McKeller (Lord of the Rings) and Judi Dench and Vivien Leigh (Gone with the Wind)
Hands are highlighted in the murder of Duncan. Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s hands cannot be cleaned and milk is turned to gall.
Witches in Shakespeare’s time• 16th – 17th century Britain people feared and suspected witches• 1566 – 1589 Chelmsford – series of famous trials and hangings for witchcraft• Pamphlets circulated with details and illustrations of witches and their alleged deeds.• James I wrote a book called Daemonologie (1597) reinforcing views commonly held at the time.• More women than men supposed witches because women are weak and predisposed to evil.• 1604 – Witchcraft Act became law with tough penalties.
Macbeth full of echoes of popular ideas• Witches flew on dark, filthy or foggy air which held them up (see opening scene).• They usually collected ingredients for their cauldrons at night.• Familiars (witches assistants) sent to bewitch people were cats, toads, owls, mice, dogs. Like any household pet they were given names.
Good v Evil in Macbeth spell chants are inverted prayerscauldron can be seen as evil opposite to the chalice of the Holy Grail
People often bewitched by food and drink (Lady Macbeth’s potions to the guards.)
Witches and their familiars could change shape• When Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo he would prefer it to come in another shape…..
Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,The armed rhinoceros or the Hyrcan tiger,Take any shape but that… Act 3 Scene 4 L99 -100
The hand of glory – charm used in burglaries. Severed hand of a hangedmurderer. Once the flame is lit, it can only be put out by milk.
Tortures used to extract confessions from suspected witchesincluded forced walking and sleep deprivation. Lady Macbethsleepwalks and Macbeth ‘hath murdered sleep…’