Macbeth meets the Witches, as portrayed in the engraving in shakespeare's source.

The three women pictured here are the three witches in Macbeth, as Shakespeare would have seen them illustrated in his source, Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Shakespeare chose to create figures far more threatening: ambiguous in sex and equivocal in prophecy. The play was presented before King James, who had earlier written a treatise on witches and witchcraft--and there is a passage directly written to flatter* him; yet Shakespeare had clearly read at least one work that was thoroughtly skeptical in its attitudes.

The conversation between the Doctor and Malcolm in 4.2.140-59 concerns the miraculous powers of the English king in curing the sick. James was proud of his reputation in curing the "King's Evil" (scrofula).

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Footnotes

  1. The King's Evil

    The conversation between the Doctor and Malcolm in 4.2.140-59 concerns the miraculous powers of the English king in curing the sick. James was proud of his reputation in curing the "King's Evil" (scrofula).