Double, double, toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!

~ Witches, Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1

01-18-04 @ Bonita Hein

The witches of Macbeth voiced the will of Hecate, the supernatural power who desired chaos among the mortals.

King James I, the ruling monarch when Shakespeare penned Macbeth, wrote that a witch’s motive was to harm men and their possessions. Not only were sorceresses political traitors, but also they were spiritual insurrectionists. Common opinion saw them as disruptive to the work of Christ.[1]

  • Witches instilled moral confusion.

They desired to turn good to evil and to make evil seem as good. Their introductory lines declare as much:

Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

~ Witches, Macbeth, Act I, scene 1

By their own admission, they desired to inflict double trouble upon mankind.

  • The witches put the devil’s seed into a fertile mind.

In Shakespeare’s day, the common belief was that the devil influenced a sinner toward evil by playing with his thoughts. The witches planted the idea in Macbeth’s head, and it swayed him toward a destructive path that took the whole country down with him.

That Shakespeare set the play in Scotland where warring clans needed little motivation to hurt one another wasn’t happenstance. (Neither is it in the church.)

  • The witches stirred their pot with a little bit of everything.

Look at their recipe for disaster:

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blindworm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing.

For charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

~ Second Witch, Act IV, Scene 1

From this grocery list, we see a little of this and a tad of that. They didn’t use the whole of anything, only those tidbits they needed for their purposes. And in the end, they stoked the fires of hell to rustle up their curse.

  • Thus, it always is with those who stir the pot with gossip.

They take a bit of truth here and a half-truth there as they concoct their version of a story. They usually add in their own special ingredients to spice the tale up.

  • The gossip puts the devil’s idea into the ear of the listener.

The Greek word used in Scripture for gossip is diabolos – a name also used for Satan, a devil, a malicious slanderer, the arch-enemy of good.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were guilty of the work of diabolos. Jesus proclaimed a warning:

“You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.”

~ John 8:44, HCSB


How should Christians respond to those who gossip?

[1] King James I, Daemonologie, Second Book, Chapter 3, referenced by Mabillard, Amanda. The Relationship Between Macbeth and the Witches. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000, (retrieved February 1, 2013) < >.