Macbeth is a critical play which works at various levels. Here Shakespeare gives us timeless symbols of crucial yet unnoticed forces at work in any society. The witches are symbol of inconceivable forces lying in the depth of individuals which affect the larger processes. They are symbol of wonder and spectacle. Shakespeare places them at the uppermost layer of the dynamics of this play. He keeps them unidentified. They keep evading. They are the destabilising sources inherent in us to provoke new orders. Much more than any other characters of the play, the witches are the symbol of much wider significance.
They live away from the civilised society, it shows us their neglected position. They watch upon Macbeth curiously. Away from the affairs of state, they are the symbol of neglect which keeps entering into the established order. Their nature is supposed to be evil but what they point out seems to be already within us. They are indifferent to the fact whether you blame them or not.
In the play, Macbeth questions the traditional norms, he makes a conscious choice from the suggestions of the witches. Hence the witches may symbolise this world itself where choices are numerous for the onlooker and the final choice determines the real values of a character. They stand for the metaphysical aid at the service of dark motives sanctioned from some mysterious source. Even when Macbeth is capable of knowing the right from the wrong, the witches along with Lady Macbeth make sure that his moral problems finally end in the wrong path.The witches stand for the suggestions of our dark fantasies. In the play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth yield to such suggestions. They don’t stand for help. They provide foreknowledge and the evil in it attracts us. They help at taking the focus away, they symbolise delusion.
In the witches, we find the symbol of unrecognised forces around us which stand larger than our will. They are irresistible so the characters in the play fall prey to them. Yet there is another side to them too. They reveal the self-deception of the society. They live in shadows; they are exiled from the violence of civilised orders. They promote ambiguity and make fun of our fixed positions. Banquo sees them as the bubble of this earth. Like water bubbles, they form and then vanish away. The influential suggestions made by them has a radical side to it. They stand for transgression.
The witches utter sentences full of deceptive meanings. The lack of narrative in their prophesies makes one feel like they may be the unconscious of our system. Shakespeare utilises a proper myth to make us believe in the magic of their presence but in larger context we understand that they are the symbol of ever-changing state of human conditions, the source of which lies actually within the human beings themselves.