During the Renaissance it was believed that Satan sent witches malicious spirits to help them carry out their evil deeds. These 'familiars' or 'imps' would appear in animal form. The familiar of the First Witch takes the form of a cat and the familiar of the Second Witch takes the form of a toad (Paddock). The familiar of the Third Witch is not mentioned in the first act but in 4.1, it takes the form of a 'harpy', a nasty creature in Greek mythology with the head and body of a woman and the talons of a bird.
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Macbeth Glossary. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2009. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth/macbethglossary/macbeth1_1/macbethglos_graymalkin.html >.
"The "Weird Sisters" in Macbeth seem to us neither on the one hand mere mortal witches of popular superstition, nor yet, as Holinshed states, and as their name would imply, do we see in them "goddesses of destiny" -- "fates" determining human actions and issues without regard to that fundamental essence of personality, will. They know the future and can foretell events; yet they are not able of themselves to make those events come to pass." N.B. Bowman. Read on...