Something Wicked This Way Comes: “Macbeth” Allusions in the “Harry Potter” Series

Something Wicked This Way Comes: “Macbeth” Allusions in the “Harry Potter” Series

Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, addler’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing.

Double double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Something wicked this way comes.

Many of us remember these lines as lyrics from “Double Trouble,” a song that was featured in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. However, many others know this as a portion of a famous monologue from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, during one of the scenes of the three witches. Other than the appearance of some of Shakespeare’s language in one of the movies, it is safe to say that J.K. Rowling – like many other authors – took inspiration from the works of William Shakespeare, and Macbeth in particular.

In the Scottish play, the three witches (who are known as the Weird Sisters, which is also the name of a famous band in the wizarding world) share a prophecy with Macbeth that he will be Thane of Cawdor and with Banquo that he will be the father to many kings but will not be one himself. Later on, they make three prophecies: that he should beware of Macduff, that no man born from a woman will harm him, and that he will be safe until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. In the Harry Potter series, the concept of prophecies arrises on multiple occasions. For one, Hogwarts has a class dedicated to Divination, the art of looking into the future. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Trelawney (in a trance) tells Harry that Lord Voldemort’s servant will return to him that very night. Throughout the class, Trelawney also predicted that Neville would break at least one teacup, Lavender Brown would experience an occurrence that she had been dreading on October 16, and a student will leave the class forever. Although Professor Trelawney made several ludicrous prophecies, each of these came true. A prophecy in the series that proved to be extremely important to the series appeared in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in the Hall of Prophecy in the Department of Mysteries. This prophecy appeared as a glass orb and predicted that the person with the power to defeat Lord Voldemort was born at the end of July, he will have power that Voldemort does not have (love), and he must die by the hand of the other. Prophecies make a tremendous appearance in both Macbeth and Harry Potter and are crucial to a person’s understanding of each written work.

One can argue that the leading lady of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, may have some qualities that are similar to one of the most prominent villains in the series, Bellatrix Lestrange. Like Bellatrix, Lady Macbeth is power-hungry, harsh, and not feminine (in a typical view of femininity). Both women are also mentally unstable; although this directly causes Lady Macbeth’s suicide, it does not lead to Bellatrix’s death. However, Bellatrix Lestrange is more ruthless than Lady Macbeth; while Lady Macbeth leads the operation to murder the king in order for her husband to usurp the crown, she does not murder him herself. Bellatrix murders and tortures many people throughout her experience in the Death Eaters, not allowing her gender to interfere with her violent actions. Also, at the end of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth feels extremely paranoid and guilty for the murders that she and her husband have committed, while Bellatrix feels no remorse for the cruel acts that she has performed. Although these two women share many characteristics and qualities, they also have traits that set them apart as female villains.

There are a great deal of Macbeth references and similarities in the Harry Potter series. Shakespeare’s decision to include a great deal of magical and supernatural references into the play Macbeth stems from King James of England’s fascination in these areas. Since King James would prove to have a large impact on Shakespeare’s career and legacy, it was necessary that Shakespeare compliment and impress James with his works. Rowling may have gained inspiration from Shakespeare’s perception of magic in the creation of her own wizarding world.