Hecate’s monologue in act three in which she scolds the three Witches shows us much more about her character and her relationship with the three Witches. By understanding Hecate further we can better understand the world of the Witches and their power structure. In this short scene, we see the three witches punished at the hands of their leader as she proclaims herself to be the “mistress of your charms” (3.5.5). As mistress is the feminine term for master, we can infer that the witches are indeed her underlings, or at the very least under her control or in her convent. The place in which they meet is rather vague, but it is night, and there is thunder present in the scene. Out of the three Witches to speak, the first Witch is the only one who has lines in this scene, when they first enter, and when they exit.

 As these four characters are specifically shrouded in mystery and ambiguity we cannot really tell if a change has happened inside the minds of these characters. Hecate, in particular, appears for the first time in the play in this scene, so her character cannot be dynamic or static by this point in the scene as she has such a small role. As for the other Witches, they have not changed their opinions about the current situation as it is not their place as seers in this plot. The Witches are specifically written as static characters as they have no need to change their minds as either they can see the future and the truth to what lies ahead. Alternatively, they are manipulative women, and yet still they are static characters as they need not interfere with plans of their own making. 

The motives behind each of these characters are complex and vague. The motives behind the Witches and Hecate are largely unknown, and most speculation can lead down one of two paths. The first path is one of destiny, magic, and faith. This string of ideas shows us that the Witches are motivated by their ability to see the future and help someone’s destiny be realized. This idea would be maintained by the thought that the Witches do actually use magic, and can accurately see and tell the future. In this version, they would not be acting of their own personal motivations. They would be acting parallel to the idea of destiny, and the will of the future. 

The second option outlines the strictly realistic aspects of Macbeth. In this idea, the Witches are knowledgeable and uncanny wildcards that seek to push Macbeth in one specific direction. This option is centered around their personal motives (whatever they may be) as there is no larger ‘force’ for the Witches to actively maintain or help. This idea is also connected to the idea that Macbeth acted solely on his own accords as the Witches were vague in their prophecies. This is where the story becomes much more personal, and Hecate, as the master of the Witches becomes more of a puppet master than a priestess for fate. 

This monologue shows us some very interesting motifs of power. With the Scotts and their noble families, there is a hierarchy shown as there is a king, his trusted nobles, and everyone else. The Witches, on the other hand, show us another hierarchy. The matriarch, instead of the patriarch, Hecate is the leader of the Witches Coven, and she governs their use of their practice. This also alludes to the themes of Femininity being fae (magical). Lady Macbeth is shown to be more magical or mystic with her chanting, and her insanity later on. Shakespeare often conveys this through the use of prose instead of iambic pentameter. 

While the Witches are said to look very manly with their beards, this may just be an insult to their clothing or class. They are also specifically referred to as the Weird Sisters by Macbeth. Furthermore, Hecate in greek (and roman) mythology is the goddess of witchcraft and many other ghost-like entities. As a goddess, she is feminine, similar to the genders of the other Witches. Therefore we can sufficiently justify that in Macbeth, many female characters (at least four) are closely associated with the art of magic or the occult. 

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CC BY-SA 4.0 On Hecate’s Monologue by Maximiliana is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment
  1. Katarina 3 days ago

    Dear Max,
    this analysis is amazing! I found that your points regarding the potential motives Hecate was driven by were extremely interesting. The way that you were able to discuss the true aspects of her character in such detail was very informative- and provided tons of insight on how she was able to impact the story as a whole. You were also able to identify the themes in the text (like the impact of fate on the main cast), and expand on it; while connecting it to Hecate (which I think is super interesting). All in all, you did a great job, and I look forward to reading your next textual analysis!! :>

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