Which Witch?
: A study of William Shakespeare's portrayal of the witch figure in Macbeth and Richard III

  • Elizabeth Ellen Hyde

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


The popular notion of the witch is one that, as Diane Purkiss suggests, is traditionally perceived to be inspired by the ‘weird sisters’ of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The vision of an old hag, with her warts, crooked nose and broomstick, cannot help but enter our thoughts when we discuss the historical or literary figure of the witch. The contemporary world, with both the commercial spectacle that is Halloween and the mass saturation of the stereotypical ‘wicked witch’ figure across film, television and theatre, only assists in promoting this portrayal. However, though we may attribute this concept of the witch to Macbeth, there is arguably little evidence to support such a contention. In fact, I would suggest that both Shakespeare’s characterisation of the witches within his ‘Scottish play’ and the source material from which he draws inspiration for them, are both a great deal more complex than Purkiss’ quotation would imply
Date of Award2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorElisabeth Salter (Supervisor)

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