The visit started in the library where the students were asked to describe what witches are like and how they behave in the play Macbeth.
The main theme of the visit was: Were Shakespeare's witches real? And students were asked to think about what the witches do in Macbeth and whether or not the objects in the Museum's collection suggest that this is what witches actually do.
The students were given a variety of statements and they had to decide if they were true or false. Some examples of the statements they were given:
In Macbeth, the witches use human body parts in their spells. Human body parts are used in witchcraft.
In Macbeth, the witches control the weather. Witches really do things to try and change the weather.
In Macbeth, the witches predict the future. Witches really do try to see into the future.
In Macbeth, the witches interfere with kings and powerful people. Witches are mostly concerned with kings and power.
In Macbeth, the witches do spells that sound like poems. Witches always speak their spells and they sound like poems.
In Macbeth, the witches make use a cauldron to make their magic. Witches mainly use cauldrons to make their magic.
Can you guess which sections of the Museum they used as evidence to prove or disprove these statements? You can see from the top photograph below how they used the divination display as evidence.
One of the statements the students had to consider was: In the play Macbeth, the witches seem to encourage Macbeth to do evil things. Witches use their power to hurt people. Is this true or false? In the photo above you can see the students considering our cursing section and discussing it in light of the representation of witches in Macbeth.
Another statement the students considered was: In the play Macbeth, there are three witches. Do witches always work in threes? In the photo above, you can see the students looking in our Images of Witchcraft gallery at the section with the Macbeth plaque which explores the idea of witches as the Three Fates/the Unholy Trinity. The students voted at the end on whether or not Shakespeare knew what he was talking about when it came to witchcraft. Are the witches in Macbeth anything like real witches? The students had mixed views and made some really interesting points.
The visit ended with the students considering some mystery objects and discussing the nature and uses of magic. The students all seemed to enjoy themselves and were certainly intrigued by the Museum. Their teacher said "We will be back!"
The students do their best "witch crone" impressions outside the Museum!
School groups are very welcome at the Museum and visit tasks can be tailored to suit your groups needs. Please contact Judith Hewitt at the Museum for more details.