How do the witches greet Macbeth

The Witches' Prophecy

Act 1 Scene 3 Key Scene

In this scene, we meet Macbeth for the first time. The witches gather on the moor and cast a spell as Macbeth and Banquo arrive. The witches hail Macbeth first by his title Thane of Glamis, then as Thane of Cawdor and finally as king. They then prophesy that Banquos children will become kings. Macbeth demands to know more but the witches vanish. Ross and Angus arrive to tell Macbeth that he has been given the title Thane of Cawdor by Duncan.

You can take a look at the scene here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if youre looking at the scene for the first time, dont worry if you dont understand everything at once.

  • Take a look at the scene. Who has the most lines? Are they using prose or verse? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. Weve added some definitions (in green), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.

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    Enter MACBETH and BANQUO, drenched in blood with torches.

    So foul and fair a day I have not seen.

How far ist called to Forres?

Forres is a place near to King Duncans camp.

The Weird Sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go, about, about,
Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace, the charm's wound up.

What are these
That look not like the inhabitants o th earth,
And yet are ont? Live you, or are you aught
That man may question?

Banquo is not sure whether the witches are human because of how they look. What do you imagine they look like?

Speak, if you can: what are you?

All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Glamis.

All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor.

All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter.

Why do you think Macbeth doesnt respond immediately to the witches prophecies?

Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear
Things that do sound so fair? Ith name of truth,
Are ye fantastical, or that indeed
Which outwardly ye show? My noble partner
You greet with present grace, and great prediction
Of noble having, and of royal hope,
That he seems rapt withal; to me you speak not.
If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow, and which will not,
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear
Your favours, nor your hate.

Why are you scared by words that promise an amazing future?

You have given my friend such great news about what his future holds that he is completely spellbound.

If you can foretell what will happen in the future and say what will happen and what won't.

Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.

Not so happy, yet much happier.

Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none:
So all hail Macbeth, and Banquo.

Your children and descendants will be kings.

Banquo, and Macbeth, all hail.

The WITCHES turn to leave.

Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more:
I know I am Thane of Glamis,
But how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives
A prosperous gentleman; and to be king
Stands not within the prospect of belief,
No more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence
You owe this strange intelligence, or why
Upon this blasted heath you stop our way
With such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you.

The idea of being king is completely unbelievable.

How many questions do Macbeth and Banquo ask of the witches and why do you think the witches dont answer?

(Text edited for rehearsals by Polly Findlay and Zoe Svendsen)