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The witches

There is no doubt that thunder and lightning and three witches that fly through the dirty air make a great beginning to a play. The audience’s attention is immediatle caught, especially since witches were, as we say now, in the news. Indeed, other writers of Shakespear’s time took advantage of the public’s interest in witches and wrote plays with witches. Also, Shakespear may have wanted to attract the attention of the King, Jame I, who took a great interest in witches. But we cannot say what Shakespear himself thought.
A lot of people believed in witches in Shakespear’s time. Some thought that witches were given their power by the devil, and that they could be very dangerous. Many wowen wre executed because they were said to be witches. At around the time that Macbeth was written there was a very public debate about witches in England. Reginal Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft (1584), argued that the witches did not really exist. He said that teh women accused of being witches were often the victims of false accusation. King James took a personal interest in the subject of withcrft, and wrote a book on the suibject, Demonology (1597), as a response to Scot’s book. The king also tried to have all copies of the supposedly miraculous magic of witches; and so his book became the first important book of magic tricks in English. The king believed that witches existed, and secretly the trials of women accused of being witches. He also believed that witches had tried to destroy him and his young bride. In 1589, the arrival of James’s bride, the young woman he was going to marry, Princess Anne of Denmark, was blocked by storms. James himself went to Denmark, the storms threatened his return to Scotland. The Danes began a witch-hunt to find the witches who had tried to kill James and Anne. When James heard about these Danish witch-hunts and trials, he decided to begin his own in Scotland. Finally, a midwife named Agnes Sampson was accused of being a witch and having tried to destroy the king. At first she rejected all the charges against her, but then after being tortured she confessed. One report from the period says that James did not believe she was guilty first, but then Agnes Sampson told him the words that he and his wife said in private on their wedding night.

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