The Authenticity of Hecate in Macbeth Essay

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The Authenticity of Hecate in Macbeth

The authenticity issue of Macbeth's Hecate endures. Recent critics still argue about whether the scenes are Shakespearean, why they are or are not, and what the implications are one way or the other. Some critics cling to the authenticity of the Folio while others wave their copies of Middleton's "The Witch" in protest. The modern director and reader then will find no clear direction to read or not to read from textual scholarship. Instead, would-be travellers to the world of Macbeth had better consider their options and ask specifically: what does Hecate add with her appearance and how do these additions impact the play?

Some critics have made the mistake of trying to dismiss
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In that moment, however, Hecate's image also invokes that of Lady Macbeth in Act I, Scene v when she anticipates Macbeth's arrival and plans what she will say to manipulate him. Palmer makes the connection between the visual appearance of the two females: "Hecate, after all, is a goddess, not a grotesque hag, and a spectral counterpart to that other Queen of Night, Lady Macbeth" (57), but I think the connection between their designs on Macbeth is far more important than any visual similarity. When Macbeth rejects the partnership, matrimonial and political, with Lady Macbeth in Act III, scene v, he is turning to his "Weird Sisters" at the very moment in which they are consulting with Hecate. It is in fact for Hecate's machinations that Macbeth rejects his wife, a coincidence which lends dark meaning to his earlier musing: "to black Hecate's summons/ The shard-born dung beetle.../Hath rung Night's yawning peal" (III,ii, 41-43). With the arrival of Hecate, Macbeth himself becomes the dung beetle.

When Hecate does appear, she constructs a strong sense of authority in the "hurlyburly" world of the witches. Without her, the witches hint at hierarchy when they invite Macbeth to hear from their "masters" (IV,i, 62-63) or announce a "more potent" spirit (IV, i, 76), but Hecate makes her position clear when she announces herself, "the mistress of your charms" (III,

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