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Guiltless Sisters Three: Stirring Words Into Deeds

What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes.

— Macbeth

If the Weird Sisters were guilty of anything, it was speaking outside the realm of iambic pentameter. Through their trochaic tetrameter — a palatal incantation in itself — the Sisters Three think as One and are neither good nor evil, but speak the words that stir the dark deeds of Macbeth’s desires. Rather than enchant or demand of Macbeth to murder the king, the bearded Sisters simply speak when spoken to. Upon the heath — that placeless place — the witches exist in the twilight of the ‘real’ and supernatural, without Time to reckon, only the deeds to come and their own curse of speaking prophecy on demand. The Sisters are the underbelly of Cassandra, kin in their prophetic powers, but doomed to fill the hollow desires of someone like Macbeth with words more powerful than sow’s blood, or eye of newt tossed into the hell-broth, marinated words that are wholly believable. Considering the treatment of witches throughout history, the Weird Sisters have no choice but to speak when someone like Macbeth demands, never mind a gratis-coin in the pointed-hat that never follows. Who can blame them for leaving out the bloody details of how Macbeth will murder his desires into reality.

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark…

— Weird Sisters

Even if the witches can ride the air and sail across the sea on a sieve, it takes a certain kind of passion for craft to procure dragon’s scale and wolf’s tooth. Not only does the root of hemlock have to be gathered, but must be in the dark, most likely a darkness only to be found on the Winter Solstice, under a full moon, while trespassing on some earl’s property, complete with guard dogs and savory pitfalls. The relish of the rapid meter the witches speak in is delicious, not enough to want a taste of their brew, but mind-watering in and of itself, playful. Mischief is always afoot with the Sister’s Three, forcing the Queen of Witches, Hecate, to rise and chide them. But like a doting mother pretending to be angry, Hecate is just as eager to commend the witches for their pains. In the abysmal darkness, the shared passion of the witches is as deliciously profane as their bubbling cauldron. Neither heroes nor villains, the Weird Sisters are the spaces between notes in a song, the little fight of the skin of an apple before it gives way to its meat, the flicker of distant lightning before the resounding BOOM of thunderous deeds done by others.

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

Open, locks,

Whoever knocks!

— Weird Sisters

That ‘something wicked’ is not a supernatural being, nor a witch, but the approaching Macbeth. While lines such as these are often associated with the evil intent of the witches, the ‘pricking of my thumbs’ is indicative of a fight or flight response, fear and focus. It seems the witches have no choice but to unlock the doors of perception and let Macbeth into their cloistered world of magic and mischief. Hecate might be their keeper, but no guardian can keep watch perpetually. A riddling pragmatism is at work here. When Macbeth threatens the witches to keep on conjuring and tell him more, or an eternal curse will fall on them, the witches don’t fear the curse of their craft, but the curse of man, the kinds of curses that kick over the cauldron and raise the stakes, adding fire to the hexed gathering. The Weird Sister remain hand in hand, speaking in Threes and as One, never telling too much and never afraid to give warning. Beyond the cauldron and conjurings, the Weird Sisters are survivors, living in yet another Age where their very existence precludes any hope for kinship beyond their own. In that placeless place, upon the heath, a tragic beauty boils over, drifting across Scotland, up through the pages of the play, giving rise to rumors of what the Weird Sisters are not.

Hayden Moore

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