Macbeth

by: William Shakespeare

The Three Witches

First Witch
When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch
When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

Third Witch
That will be ere the set of sun.

First Witch
Where the place?

Second Witch
Upon the heath.

Third Witch
There to meet with Macbeth.

The play opens with the Witches greeting each other in Act I, scene 1. From the opening, the dark and disturbing tone of the play is clear. The Witches speak easily of warfare as something to watch avidly until it’s time to meet with their newest victim: Macbeth.

First Witch
All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

Second Witch
All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch
All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!

In Act 1, Scene 3, the three Witches greet Macbeth in a startling and unexpected way. The first Witch calls him “thane of Glamis,” already his title, because of Sinel’s death. But then the Witches call him “thane of Cawdor” and “king hereafter” thus prophesizing that he will be promoted to thane of Cawdor and then king. Macbeth has always dreamed of becoming king, so he is unnerved to hear his ambition said aloud. The Witches’ prediction sets in motion the plot of the play, as Macbeth and his wife murder to assure that he will become, and stay, king.

First Witch
Lesser than Macbeth and greater.

Second Witch
Not so happy, yet much happier.

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

After the Witches prophesize that Macbeth will be king in Act 1 scene 3, Banquo asks what his future holds. The witches tell him he’ll be less happy than Macbeth but far happier, and predict that Banquo will never be king, but his descendants will be. Macbeth will soon murder Banquo to try to keep this from happening, but he will fail to kill Banquo’s son Fleance, who could end up making the witches’ prophesy come true.

Second Witch
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

In Act 4, scene 1, Macbeth returns to ask the Witches for more prophesies. Sensing his presence, the Second Witch calls Macbeth “wicked.” Her words mark the first time the witches describe Macbeth as evil in the play.