Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Witches on the Heath, 1855, by french painter Theodore Chasseriau
the Season of the Witch
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. Open, locks, Whoever knocks."
~ Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1
As a seasonal dance leading up to Hallowe'en, we concentrate on witches!
Considered one of the greatest of English tragedies, Shakespeare's Macbeth (c. 1603-1607), has provided an indelible image of witches that persists today. The Three Witches or Weird Sisters prophesy Macbeth's ascent to kingship and his eventual downfall. The darkly contradictory witches, their "filthy" trappings and supernatural prophesies, set the ominous tone for the Scottish play.
In Shakespeare's day, the word "weird" connoted is Latin origins, deriving from the Latin word for fate, and so "weird sisters" meant "fatal sisters" or "sisters of fate."
Scholars note the many references, hints, and parallels in the relationship of this play to the important political events of Shakespeare's time, the Scottish succession of King James I to Queen Elizabeth, and the foiled Gunpowder Treason plot of 1605.
From the Shakespeare's Globe blog:
"Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish Play’ was probably written in 1606, just three years after James I was crowned as Elizabeth’s successor, and so undoubtedly seems to be paying homage to the succession of the Scottish King to the English throne. But within that time, in November 1605, the Gunpowder Plot had been discovered: the plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament, kill James and replace him with a Catholic monarch failed and the plotters were tortured and horribly executed. The impact of the event was so dramatic that we still remember it today on Bonfire Night, so we can only imagine the enormity of the event for Shakespeare and his contemporaries."
For more about the play's historical links to the Gunpowder Plot, click one of the two very diverse representations of the Weird Sisters below.
The first, "The Three Witches from Macbeth" by Daniel Gardner, 1775 shows the visages of leading society ladies (Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; and Anne Seymour Damer). This painting is believed to be a possible representation of the ladies' shared friendship and shadowy political machinations as leading members of the Devonshire House Circle, a focal point for supporters of Whig leader, Charles James Fox.