The Three Witches or Weird Sisters are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth (c. 1603–1607). Their origin lies in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland. Other possible sources influencing their creation aside from Shakespeare's own imagination include British folklore, contemporary treatises on witchcraft including King James I and VI's Daemonologie, Scandinavian legends of the Norns, and ancient classical myths concerning the Fates, the Greek myths of the Moirai and the Roman myths of the Parcae. Portions of Thomas Middleton's play The Witch were incorporated into Macbeth around 1618.
The Three Witches represent darkness, chaos, and conflict, while their role is as agents and witnesses. Their presence communicates treason and impending doom. During Shakespeare's day, witches were seen as worse than rebels, "the most notorious traitor and rebell that can be." They were not only political traitors, but also spiritual traitors as well. Much of the confusion that springs from them comes from their ability to straddle the play's borders between reality and the supernatural. They are so deeply entrenched in both worlds that it is unclear whether they control fate, or whether they are merely its agents. They defy logic, not being subject to the rules of the real world.
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