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Macbeth

William Shakespeare

Summary and Analysis Act III: Scene 5

Summary

Hecate, the classical goddess of the lower world who represents the spirit of ancient witchcraft, calls the weird sisters to her to complain that her own part in Macbeth's downfall has been overlooked and that she now wishes personally to make his downfall complete. The scene is unnecessary to understanding the play and was probably not written by Shakespeare.

Analysis

Hecate's supernatural spite is intended to echo that of the human dimension. She is a vindictive female spirit, whose forceful instructions to the Witches reflect the language of Lady Macbeth to her husband. Although unnecessary dramatically, the scene reinforces the philosophical question: Is Macbeth entirely to blame for his own downfall? In Hecate's opinion, he is. She tells the Witches that Macbeth "loves for his own ends" and prophesies that Macbeth "shall spurn Fate," recalling the words "disdaining Fortune" from Act I. Without this line of argument, it would be easier to suggest that Macbeth is powerless to control his own destiny.

Glossary

beldams (2) witches

Acheron (15) Hell

sleights (26) charms

security (32) overconfidence