Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/447

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GHOSTS—FAIRIES—WITCHES

craft, so there were occasionally witches that were imposters. Yet the fact to be remembered is that in general good faith was practised on both sides. The people in the playhouse shuddered with Macbeth, who upon so lonely a heath came face to face with three weird sisters of the forbidden clan. Doubtless the witches in Macbeth are such as might have been met with in flesh and blood. Doubtless, also, they believed in themselves. What did Shakespeare think?—not of his creations, but of his examples of the popular creation? Note how carefully he strips them of the power of prophecy in nearly every case, how all of what they say is just such as might have been uttered by Old Demdike of Lancaster fame; and withal, how emphatically he sets forth Macbeth's willingness to consider his own interpretations of ambiguous words as so many prophecies emanating from the supernaturally inspired witches. Whatever Shakespeare thought, he is here carefully following the workings of the contemporary credulity of his fellow men.