Macbeth found the weird sisters effortlessly, his fate was a compass. The closer he got to the cavern where the witches lurked the darker the sky became, the louder the thunder. Lightning, growing more violent and forked, like a rake of the devil, illuminated the moor. His horse stopped, as if instructed by the forces of destiny. Lightning revealed a passage into a cavern. Down in the vaults of the earth the weird sisters were preparing a spell for his arrival.
“Three times the brinded cat has mewed,” said the first witch.
“Thrice plus one did the hedgehog whine,” said the second.
“Harpier cries: it's time, it's time!” the third said.
The first witch moved closer to the boiling cauldron.
“Round about the cauldron go:
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Toad that under cold stone
Days and nights, thirty-one
Vicious venom its sleeping got,
Boil it first in this charmed pot!”
Then in unison the witches chanted into the cauldron:
“Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
The second witch came to the cauldron for her contribution to the spell.
“Fillet of a marsh snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake:
Eye of newt and toes of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blindworm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
The witches then chanted together.
“Double, double, toil and trouble,
fire burn and cauldron bubble!”
Then the third of the weird sisters came forward to the cauldron to say her piece of the spell.
“Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witch's mummy, guts and gullet
Of the fed salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock, dug in the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat and slips of yew
Felled in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-delivered by a slag:
Last, a tiger's entrails.
Our pot will create what entails.”
Again they said in unison:
“Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
The second witch concluded the spell:
“Cool it with baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.”
The completion of the spell summoned Hecate.
“Oh, well done!” Hecate glowed. “I commend your pains and everyone shall share in the gains. Now about the cauldron sing, like elves and fairies in a ring, enchanting all that you put in.”
As the witches sang Hecate disappeared and the second witch stopped the singing, anticipating the arrival of Macbeth. She Said:
“By the pricking of my thumbs,
something wicked this way comes:
Open, locks - whoever knocks!”
Macbeth entered the cavern.
“Well, you secret, black and midnight hags! What are you up to?”
“A deed without a name!” the weird sisters answered together.
That could never satisfy Macbeth now.
“I charge you, by that which you profess, to answer my questions regardless of the source of your knowledge. Though you untie the winds that destroy churches; though your ferocious waves ambush and sink ships; though ripe corn is destroyed, trees are blown down and castles are toppled on their warders' heads; though palaces and pyramids slope towards their foundations; though the matter of nature tumbles into destruction; answer me when I address you!”
“Speak,” said the first witch.
“Demand,” said the second.
“We will answer,” said the third.
“Say,” the first witch teased, “if you would rather have it from our mouths or from our masters?”
“Call them. Let me see them.”
The first witch returned to the cauldron:
“Pour in blood of a sow that has eaten her nine piglets;
Add grease that is sweat from the murderer's gibbet.”
The other two witches joined their sister.
“Come, high or low;
thyself and office deftly show.”
The cavern trembled and suddenly a head wearing a helmet floated in front of Macbeth.
“Tell me, you unknown power -” Macbeth said to the first apparition.
“He knows your thoughts,” the first witch interrupted. “Hear him, but don't say a word.”
“Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!” said the apparition. “Beware Macduff! Beware the thane of Fife! Dismiss me! Enough.”
The vision vanished.
“Whatever you are, thank you for you warning. You guessed my fears. But one word more-”
“He will not be commanded. Here's another more potent than the first,” said the first witch.
Again the cavern shook and this time Macbeth saw a child drenched in blood.
“Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!” it said.
“If I had three ears, I'd hear you!” Macbeth said to the second apparition.
“Be bloody, bold and resolute: laugh at the power of man. None born of woman can harm Macbeth.”
The child disappeared, leaving no trace of the flowing blood.
“Then live, Macduff. Why should I fear you? But I'll make doubly sure! You will not live. Fate will be binding. I can tell my cowardly fears they are groundless. I can sleep through thunder.”
Feeling strong and rejuvenated, Macbeth was faced with another apparition. This time was also of a child but this time it wore a crown and carried a tree in its hand.
“What is this that looks like a prince but wearing the king's crown on its head?” Macbeth said of the third apparition.
The witches said “Listen, but don't speak to it!”
“Be as brave as the lion, be proud and pay no attention to those who vex, fret and conspire. Macbeth shall never be vanquished until Great Birnam Wood moves to the high hill at Dunsinane.”
The apparition vanished.
“That will never be!” said Macbeth. “Who can command a forest or tell a tree to leave its roots? Fair prophecies! Good! Only when Birnam Wood attacks and the dead rise will Macbeth be threatened. I shall lead the life nature planned, long and peaceful, falling victim only to old age. Yet my heart needs to know one thing. Tell me, if you can: shall Banquo's sons ever reign in this kingdom?”
“Don't seek more answers!” said the witches, in sinister tone.
“I need to know! Deny me this and I'll curse you until eternity! Let me know -”
Macbeth's talking was interrupted by the sound of the cavern shaking and a fanfare of trumpets.
“Why is the cauldron sinking? What is that noise?”
“Show!” said the first witch.
“Show!” said the second.
“Show!” said the third.
“Show his eyes, and grieve his heart- come like shadows, then depart,” they said together.
Macbeth saw the fourth apparition - a procession of eight kings. He stared at them in disbelief.
“You are too like the ghost of Banquo! Your crown sears my eyeballs. Your hair under the golden crown looks like the first's. The third, too, is like the others! You filthy hags! Why are you showing me this? Stop! My eyes!”
He held his head and his hands for momentary peace but when he looked up he saw the fifth and six kings pass: “Will this line stretch until the end of time? Another? A seventh! I won't look!”
But he couldn't stop himself, he needed to know the unknowable.
“And there's an eighth carrying a mirror so that I can see that there is still more! Some carry two-fold balls and treble sceptres! Scotland and England united! A horrible sight! Now I see that it will be! Bloody Banquo smiles at me and points to the kings as his. What - is this so?”
“Yes, sir, all this is so. But why is Macbeth amazed?” said the first witch. “Come sisters, let's cheer up his spirits by showing him our best delights.
I'll charm the air to give a sound,
While your perform your antic round:
That this great king may kindly say
our duties did his welcome pay.”
The witches danced in front of Macbeth, then disappeared.
“Where are they? Gone? Let this day stand forever accursed in the calendar!”
Macbeth stood still. He heard movements outside the cavern.
“Come in, whoever is there!”
It was Lord Lennox.
“How can I help Your Highness?”
“Did you see the weird sisters?”
“No, my lord.”
“They didn't pass you?”
“No indeed, my lord.”
“May the air they fly on be infected! And be damned all those who trust them. I heard the galloping of horses. Who is here?”
“Just my party, my lord. I bring you word that Macduff has fled to England.”
“Fled to England?”
“Aye, my good lord.”
“Time, you are anticipating my dreadful exploits! Only when I act upon thought can I be sure I will not be overtaken. From this moment on my hand will act as quickly as my heart. Now to crown my thoughts with acts: we will seize Macduff's castle, occupy Fife and put to the sword his wife, children and anyone remotely related to him. No boasting like a fool! I'll do this before my temper cools and I lose sight of my purpose. Where are these messengers? Take me to them.”
A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.
Thunder. Enter the three Witches
Fillet of a fenny snake,
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Enter HECATE to the other three Witches
Music and a song: 'Black spirits,' & c
I conjure you, by that which you profess,
Thunder. First Apparition: an armed Head
Thunder. Second Apparition: A bloody Child
Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee?
Thunder. Third Apparition: a Child crowned, with a tree in his hand
That will never be
A show of Eight Kings, the last with a glass in his hand; GHOST OF BANQUO following
Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo: down!
Ay, sir, all this is so: but why
Music. The witches dance and then vanish, with HECATE
Fled to England!
Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits: