Shakespeare and Macbeth's Downfall

Jessica Kies

The Witches' Impact

While some people believe that Macbeth's ambition caused his downfall, in reality, the three witches caused his downfall. When Macbeth met the witches for the first time the first witch greeted him as the thane of Glamis, a title he already held. The second witch greeted him as the thane of Cawdor, a title he received after the witches left, for his actions in the war. The third witch greeted him as, "...Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!" (Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 3). After Macbeth was named thane of Cawdor, he could not help but wonder about the possibility the witches' prophecy of him becoming king may come true. He could not dislodge the idea of being king from his head. King Duncan then bestows his son, Malcolm, with the title of prince of Cumberland, next in line for King. Macbeth decides that to be king, Malcolm, "...is a step on which I must fall down, or else o'erleap, for in my way it lies"(Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 4). At this point, Macbeth has decided that he is destined to be king and he must overtake Malcolm to fulfill his destiny. Macbeth is now on the path to murdering Duncan and becoming king. Without the witches telling Macbeth that he is going to be king, he would have never known of his destiny. He would have never murdered Duncan, and later became a ruthless leader.


As the play goes on Macbeth becomes more heartless. When he meets the witches again, they inform him that, "The power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth"(Shakespeare Act 4 Scene 1). This gives Macbeth a false sense of confidence because he believes no one will ever be able to kill him. The reality is that only men born naturally from a woman can kill him; he doesn't realize this. When he faces Macduff in a fight he claims, "I bear a charmèd life, which must not yield to one of woman born" (Shakespeare Act 5 Scene 8). Macduff was not born of a woman, so he can kill him. When Macbeth learns of this, he believes that he will die now and that he doesn't have a chance of surviving. Without the witches telling Macbeth that he can't be killed by a man born of woman, he would have been more cautious and not believed himself invulnerable.

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The Gundestrup Cauldron

At the beginning of Act 4 Scene, the three witches were making a poison in their cauldron, with the first witch proclaiming, "Round about the cauldron go, in the poisoned entrails throw"(Shakespeare Act 4 Scene 1). When Macbeth came in wanting to know what they were doing, they let him hear the apparitions. These were the apparitions that told him that he couldn't be killed by a man born of woman, leading to him being overconfident and consequently killed. The Gundestrup Cauldron was made around 100BC. It is located at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. The Gundestrup Cauldron represents the witches cauldron on the day they showed Macbeth the apparitions.

Macbeth Sonnet

Macbeth and Banquo meet the three witches

Macbeth is prophesied to be the king

Duncan is killed without any hitches

Sons run away while Macbeth gets the bling


Macbeth is blamed for the late Duncan's death

By Duncan's sons, Banquo, and many more

Cause of many more taking their last breath

Is Macbeth who's now rotten to his core


Macbeth meets with the three witches again

He can't be killed by man born of woman

Plans are made for his murder by some men

The responsibility falls to one


Macbeth is killed by the only Macduff

Kingdom rid of Macbeth, time for new stuff