The witches

The witches’ physical appearances show their abnormality

Unlike the other characters of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we get some information about the physical appearances of the three witches. In Act 1, Scene 3, Banquo describes them as creatures with “choppy finger[s]” and “skinny lips” (1.3.45-46). He generally describes them as unpleasant and wild to look at. Banquo also points out that they do not look like they belong in the human world since they are so “wither’d and so wild in their attire, / That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth.” (1.3.41-42). 

On top of this, Banquo is quite confused about their gender: “You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so.” (1.3.46-48). A woman with a beard is unnatural; it goes against the natural order. All in all, the witches’ appearance is a sign that they are supernatural creatures who do not belong to the human world. This is also an indication that they should not be trusted. Ironically, this is exactly what Macbeth does.

Shakespeare may be toying with the idea of gender when he has Banquo refer to the witches’ beards. In the E...

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