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Significance of the Opening Scene in Macbeth

Significance of the Opening Scene in Macbeth

Significance of the Opening Scene in Macbeth

The opening scene customarily serves the resolve of an explanation and truly, what Coleridge pointed out, strikes a spiritual key-note. Shakespeare's Macbeth is a tragedy of the triumph of evil: we are in a world of moral anarchy, symbolized by withered creatures, to whom "foul is fair". In a play, the first impression lasts a long time and Shakespeare tries to keep the audience in the right mood at once. 

The first scene, other than being expositional, establishes a mood or an atmosphere for the action of the play. The hostile weather, featuring fog and filthy air, and the loathsome witches crooking out middles create a World of Darkness and foulness in which there are echoes of Macbeth and his wife's evil designs that will be seen later.

The gathering of the three witches or the weird sisters in a desolate place in heavy storm, thunder and lightning and their promise to meet after the storm of great Macbeth ‘upon the heath' before the sunset add to the drama’s great mystery and horror. Their decision to meet Macbeth keeps the audience with bated breath and it at once brings up a question in the minds- “what can this man called Macbeth have to do with these witches, rather the distasteful hags?”

The operation is important, particularly in establishing a mood or an atmosphere in which the main action of the play will be seen by the audience. The scene is set in an open space, a place for ordinary people to hang out, a place away from worldly business and normal social norms. The weather is not favorable. The fog and filthy air suggests the universal darkness and griminess and the appearance of the witches in a desert place with thunder and lightning symbolizes a barren place where evil gains its dominion over all things.

The storms, at its worst not only harmonize with their grotesque guise and rites. It is also a symbol of the present convulsion in Duncan’s Kingdom and of the still greater tremor to come, a counterpart to the ‘hurly- burly’ of battle and murder. The explanation of the situation corrupts the second scene. The customary exposition is avoided in the opening scene- the action is initiated in a symbolic sense which burst at once into a wild life. In this way the audience is aroused to follow the events properly.

The main theme of the reversal of values is given out simply and clearly in the first scene- “fair is foul and foul is fair”; and added to this is the prediction of conflict, chaos and moral darkness where Macbeth will probably immerse himself. 

Significance of the Opening Scene in Macbeth

There is something more and worse implicit in the clarity of the mysterious word, ‘witches’. The witches saw their seed in Macbeth's chest, where it finds a soil prepared by his own innate nature, prone to evil to make it fruitful, and he examines the bitter fruit. Witches act as a living instrument of fate to bring destruction to Macbeth's life. What is more striking is the opening of evil in the universe. Evil is all pervading for it enters superstitiously (something done secretly and stealthily) into the world and enters well into evil. It acts like a poison, threatening all the healthy things in life. Thus, the first scene seems mostly a forbidding because the witches are the sinister challenges to ordinary goodness. The witches say they will meet Macbeth when 'hurly- burly' is over.

Witches’ speech in its use of rhythm intensifies a sense of incantation and of magical charms, not only in the first scene, but also throughout the play. The two lines - Line 4, when the battle is ‘lost and own’ and line 9, ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’ - offers a curious paradox. ‘Lost’ and ‘Won’, ‘foul’ and ‘fair' are antonyms, and there lies the dichotomy and the dramatic irony. Witches are airy - nothing and this is only possible for airy - there is no knowing the future. Future knowledge means lending the elements of super-naturalism to the play. Moreover, witches have a craft that not only enables them to know, but also to shape the future in order to succeed in doing harmful work.

Thus, the brief and crisp opening scene in Macbeth has many dramatic motives. It introduces the dark environment, incorporates its supernatural elements into the play, and gives pioneering knowledge about the combination of good and evil. Of all the best, it does, is the aid to man’s morale. Knowledge teaching that man, in spite of his sterling virtues, cannot stick to the moral goodness. Therefore the theme of evil that is mastering over throughout the play is the potent truth in the opening scene of Macbeth.


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