Critically Commentry on the Opening Scene of “Macbeth”.

The opening scene usually serves the purpose of an exposition 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 the withered beings, to whom " foul is fair ". In a drama, first impressions are lasting, and Shakespeare contrives to put the spectator 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 loath some witches croaking out middles create a world of darkness and foulness in which are found the echoes of the sinister designs of Macbeth and his wife to 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 health’ 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 opening scene 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 laid in ‘an open place’, a place removed from the ordinary human haunt, mundane business and usual social rules. The weather is not fevourable rather hostile to men, most disagreeable. The fog and filthy air suggests the universal darkness and unhealthiness and the appearance of the witches in a desert place, with thunder and lightning, symbolizes a barren place where evil runs rampant obtaining its mastery over all things. The storm, at its worst, not only harmonizes with their grotesque guise and rites, it is  also a symbol of the present convulsion in Duncan’s Kingdom and of the still greater convulsion to come-a counter part to the hurly –burly  of battle  and murder. The explanation of the situation contaminates to 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 wild life. The interest of the audience in the events to follow is thus appropriately aroused.
 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 with it are associated the premonitions of the conflict, disorder and moral darkness into which Macbeth, most probably will plunge himself. There is still some further and worse meaning underlying the obviousness in the enigmatic words of the witches.


The witches saw their seed in the breast of Macbeth, where it finds a soil prepared by his own innate nature, prone to evil, to make it fructify, and he tastes the bitter fruit. The witches work in a way as the living instruments of Fate to bring doom in the life of Macbeth. What is more striking is the      oncoming of evil in the universe. Evil is all pervading for it enters surreptitiously (something done secretly and stealthily) into the world and enters well into evil. It works poison like threatening all the healthy things in life. Thus, the first scene seems mostly a foreboding because the witches are a sinister challenge to ordinary goodness. The witches tell that they will meet Macbeth when the ‘hurly burly’ is done. Other than the turmoil of battle and rebel on the word refers to the turmoil in the moral world in which good and evil stand criss - cross and often evil engulfs the good, thus leading to moral anarchy in the world.
                          Witches’ speech in its use of rhyme intensifies a sense of incantation and of magical charms, not only in the first scene but also through out the play. Line four when the battle’s is lost and won” and line nine “Fair is foul and foul is fair “offer a curious paradox. “Lost” and ‘Won’, ‘foul’ and ‘fair’ are antonyms and there lies the dichotomy and the dramatic irony. The witches are the airy – nothing and it is only possible for the airy- nothing to know the future. The knowledge of the future means to lend the elements of supernaturalism to the play. Moreover, the witches have one craft they have the power not merely to know but to shape the future for the malevolent ends, bestowing success in order to work ruin.
                         Thus, the short and crisp opening scene of “Macbeth” has many dramatic purposes. It introduces the dark atmosphere, incorporates into the play its super-natural elements and gives the fore knowledge of the amalgamation of good and evil. Of all the best it does is the aid to man’s moral knowledge teaching that man, in spite of his sterling virtues can not stick to the moral goodness. That evil is over mastering is the potent truth in the scene.
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