Tricomy Witches And Scapegoats Essay, Research Paper
Witches, Scapegoats and Disorder Section04
Are the Witches in Macbeth Psychological Projections?
“No estate, no class, no group, however conceived, was completely exempt from the persuasiveness of belief in witchcraft witches could strike anywhere.” . One of the most famous questions that still exists today is, do witches really exist or are they simply a creation of the human mind? Reginal Scott questions the intentions behind the witch craze. According to him witchcraft and those being accused were questionable. He was very skeptical about whether or not these accusations were legitimate or if people were accusing others simply in fear of their own lives. In writing his doubts about witchcraft his own life was in danger. He was aware that at anytime he could himself of being a witch.
“But whatsoever is reported or conceived of such manners of witchcraft, I dare avow to be false and fabulous (coosinage, dotage, and poisoning excepted) neither is there any mention made of these kind of witches in the Bible.”
Reginal Scott had his doubts about the existence of witchcraft because there is no mention of the existence of witchcraft in the Bible. His question was not whether or not witches truly existed but what was the extent of their power. However, his questioning of the extent of their power, questions whether or not they were truly a threat to society. He questioned whether or not this “craze” was truly necessary.
At the Persecutions at Bamberg, the mayor himself, Johannes Junius, wrote a letter to his daughter talking about his experiences. This letter states that he only confessed to witchcraft because he was tortured over a period of many days. He writes of how each day a different mode of torture was inflicted upon him. Tortures such as thumbscrews, legscrews, and the strappado were inflicted upon him until he confessed. He states that the men tried to get him to name others who were witches as well but he refused to give up any names. He wrote to his daughter Veronica that he six other men confessed against him but that he forgives these men because he knows they only did it in the hopes that they would save their own lives as well as the lives of their families. Junius states “innocent have I come into prison, innocent have I been tortured, innocent must I die.” We see that he was tortured until he confessed and that he was not truly a witch. He claims his innocence with such conviction that we know that he was falsely accused if he was falsely accused. “Now follows, dear child, what I confessed in order to escape the great anguish and bitter torture, which it was impossible for me longer to bear?”
Both the writings of Reginal Scott and Johannes Junius show that there is a doubt about whether or not witchcraft truly exists. We can question why those who confessed truly did confess. It was not because they were witches it was because they were tortured.
Another prime example of the question of reality is Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The story of Macbeth questions whether witches are real and can see the future or if the witches are just a figment of the imagination. He is told that he will be known as the “Thane of Cawdor” and after that “King Hereafter”. Lady Macbeth convinces him to go through with the execution of the king. However, Macbeth doubts whether or not he really saw the witches or they are simply a figment of his imagination. We know that he begins to hallucinate after he has Banquo killed. At his banquet he sees the ghost of Banquo comes to him. He then sees the witches as well and they summon different symbols to represent their prophecies. He sees an armed head, which warns him to beware of Macduff, he sees a bloody child that tells him “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth,” and finally, he sees a child crowned with a tree in his hand. Macbeth is promised that he will not be killed till Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane Hill. We know that Macbeth is delirious at this point and is about to go to war. It is possible that he see the witches as well as the prophecies in an attempt to assure himself that he will be safe.
The Malleus Maleficarum states that many were reluctant to carry out the executions of the accused witches. In the mid sixteenth century a physician by the name of Johann Weyer, publicly questioned not the existence of witches, but whether or not the actions of which they were accused of were illusions.
Bishop of Cuenca, Fray Lope de Barreintos, remarked that
“Nor should anyone believe such an absurd thing that these supposed events really take place, other than in dreams or in the imagination. Anyone who believes such things is an infidel and worse than a pagan, to judge the way they conceive such thing.” The bishop believed that the accusations and belief that witches really believed did not come from spells or actions that people saw. He knew that people did not truly know what to believe. He was also trying to say that those who simply go along with these witch crazes are worse than the real witches.
Macbeth is faced with a major inner conflict. He is not sure whether or not he should kill that king and after Banquo’s death he is tortured. His soul, mind, and heart at being ripped apart because of what he has done. He wants to be sure he will be safe and tries to convince himself that his actions were justified. That is why he sees the witches. He wanted to reassure himself that what he id was right. According the examples given in the Malleus Maleficarum, we see that the reason people saw witches was to protect themselves from being accused of witchcraft. From this we can see how people would accuse others of being witches as well as why Macbeth would see the three witches.
As we can see there is a question as to whether or not witches truly exist. In both cases we can see how there is a doubt to whether the witches are real or just a figment of our imaginations. We may never truly know whether or not people truly believed that witches existed or they began accusing people in fear of their own lives, or perhaps they went along the accusations because everyone else was. Macbeth was not even sure if his premonitions were real. He doubted all the prophecies that he saw and went along with them mostly because his wife told him to. The existence of witches always has been and always will be in question.