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«We Three»

The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters

Laura Shamas

The Weird Sisters, from William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, are arguably the most famous trio of witches in English literature. Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters are a complex trinitarian mythological construction – a unique amalgamation of classical, folkloric, and socio-political elements. This book is an archetypal exploration of the Weird Sisters; by examining this feminine trio through the lens of mythology, new insights about their significance may be understood. The ramifications extend from classical comprehension to twenty-first century pop culture observations related to female trios.


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Chapter Four: Flourish, Exeunt 98


Chapter Four Flourish, Exeunt “Peace!—the charm’s wound up.” -Shakespeare, Macbeth, 1.3.37 The archetypal imagistic legacy of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters as influential female “witch” characters continued throughout the twentieth century and is currently mirrored today in characters, motifs, and images in literature, film, television, music and pop culture. The image of the Weird Sisters is related to the concept of Sisterhood—as part of modern feminism. Theoretical Conclusions William Shakespeare’s dramatization of the Weird Sisters in Macbeth renders them a complex trinitarian mythological amalgamation of classical, folkloric, and socio-political elements. The Weird Sisters, most directly descended from the archetype of the trinitarian Scottish Wyrdes, were referenced in Anglo- Saxon literature connected to the story of Macbeth as early as 1420 in “The Original Chronicle of Andrew of Wyntoun.” Raphael Holinshed’s 1577 description of the these three forest-bound “creatures of elder world” who tell Macbeth his fate locates them as “goddesses of destinie, or else some nymphs or feiries.” This phrase honors the divinity of the Weird Sisters as an archetypal construction. But it also provides polysemous mythological “latitude” which Shakespeare utilizes for maximum dramatic effect in terms of mining/ ”borrowing”/ transforming key mythic motifs and symbols for his characteri- zations, much as he did with history; there are many divine female trios and mythological figures related to fate, inspiration, and the underworld which fit under this archetypal umbrella. Shakespeare had an excellent working knowledge of classical mythology. The Wyrdes, the Norns, the Fates, the Moirae, the Parcae, and the...

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