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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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Notes 107


Notes Introduction 1. For more on Thomas Middleton and textual interpolations, see Chapter One. 2. Such community relationships are examined, for example, in Robin Briggs’ Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft (23). Chapter One 1. There has been a recent trend towards a critical theory of “script instability,” according to Arthur Kinney; this theory characterizes all playtexts as “fundamentally social” and thus, they “do not even acquire an artistic form of being until their engagement with an audience has been determined” (Jerome McGann qtd. in Kinney 281). Kinney, in Lies Like Truth, extends this theory to explain the issue of interpolations to Macbeth through the ages, beginning with possible touring activities of Shakespeare’s company, The King’s Men, who owned the script, and whose changing personnel and visits to different venues might have necessitated “an unfixed text” (282). For more on this, see Kinney 277-284. 2. For comparison, the actual text of Holinshed, without modernization, reads: “[. . .]when suddenlie in the middest of a laund, there met them three women in strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of the elder world, whome when they attentiuelie beheld, woondering much at the sight [. . .]” (Holinshed qtd. in Muir Arden 171). 3. In the 1577 edition of Holinshed’s account, on page 243 there is a woodcut illustration of the Macbeth-Banquo-Weird Sisters scene, reproduced on this book’s cover, which depicts the Weird Sisters as well-coiffed and well-dressed: “This scene represents the witches as mortal women, not old, fashionably, even aristocratically dressed [. . .]” (Braunmuller...

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