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The obscure bird Clamoured the live-long night. Some say the earth Was feverish and did shake. In Wyrd Sisters, however, the idea of the supernatural is subverted: because of the magic nature of Lancre it is normal for there to be all sorts of strange omens: [i]t was a winter of portents.
Comets sparkled against the chilled skies at night. Clouds shaped mightily like whales and dragons drifted over the land by day. In Lancre town a man swore he'd met a man who had actually seen with his own eyes a tree get up and walk. There was a short sharp shower of shrimps. There were odd lights in the sky.
Geese walked backwards. There was nothing the least unusual about any of this. The Ramtops, which as it were lay across the Disc's vast magical standing wave like an iron bar dropped innocently across a pair of subway rails, were so saturated with magic that it was constantly discharging itself into the environment.
And, with alarming suddenness, nothing happened. The skies were clear, the snow deep and crisped like icing sugar. The freezing forests were silent and smelled of tin. The only things that fell from the sky were the occasional fresh showers of snow. A man walked across the moors from Razorback to Lancre town without seeing a single marshlight, headless dog, strolling tree, ghostly coach or comet, and had to be taken in by a tavern and given a drink to unsteady his nerves.
The stoicism of the Ramtoppers, developed over the years as a sovereign resistance to the thaumaturgical chaos, found itself unable to cope with the sudden change. It was like a noise which isn't heard until it stops. However, as said in the previous chapter, this mysticism is always undercut. Some acts of magic, for example, are demystified by bringing them into the realm of science: The old woman had been a great collector of such things and, most unusually, had written them down; witches didn't normally have much use for literacy.
Goodie Whemper had, in fact, been a research witch. First, she had to find out his name.
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The old peel-the-apple trick should do that. You just peeled an apple, getting one length of peel, and threw the peel behind you; it'd land in the shape of his name. Millions of girls had tried it and had inevitably been disappointed, unless the loved one was called Scscs. That was because they hadn't used an unripe Sunset Wonder picked three minutes before noon on the first frosty day in the autumn and peeled left-handedly using a silver knife with a blade less than half an inch wide; Goodie had done a lot of experimenting and was quite explicit on the subject.
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Furthermore, when actual acts of magic are preformed Pratchett does not use the register normally associated with such things, as seen in the previous chapter. This takes away much of the effect of the supernatural. In Macbeth, by contrast, the supernatural stays supernatural. It is not explained and it is reported in a way that supports rather than undercuts its intimidating nature. In this light, it is interesting to note that despite its demystification, the witchcraft in Wyrd Sisters is far more potent than that in Macbeth.
The witches in Wyrd Sisters, by contrast, manage, among other things, to transport an entire kingdom fifteen years into the future. In Macbeth, ambition seems to be its primary engine: it is ambition that drive the Macbeths to assassinate the king and usurp the throne, resulting in a brutal tyranny. This view fits in well with the renaissance idea of the Great Chain of Being, a divinely conceived structure of life wherein everything has its own distinct, hierarchical place and can only be happy when it remains there.
In this view, ambition becomes the sin of desiring to rise in the chain.
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Apart from the murder with which this is accomplished in Macbeth, this will lead to further evil, as it does with Macbeth who, after becoming king, starts killing all whom he considers a danger to his continued rule. Indeed, both Macbeth and his wife come to greatly regret killing Duncan.
In a way, this regret may be thought of as redeeming and it is this regret that makes the difference with regard to Wyrd Sisters.
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Though Felmet does come to regret his actions, the Duchess has no such feelings, nor, indeed, any redeeming qualities. In fact, as seen in the previous chapter, she seems to be the personification of evil: even when she is shown her true self she does not repent, instead celebrating her pure evilness.
She even ridicules those who believe that, deep down, everyone is really a decent person. Pratchett, on the other hand, seems to react to this by saying that real evil does exist and is to be found in those who willingly commit evil without remorse. In fact, she seems to be completely amoral. As such, she is perhaps neither good nor evil, but simply the ultimate form of pragmatism combined with ambition. In conclusion, the thematic foundations of Macbeth and Wyrd Sisters are largely similar.
The most important themes in both texts are power, specifically that of a king, and the various themes related to it. Other common themes include prophecy, the supernatural and the nature of evil. By its different interpretation of these themes, Wyrd Sisters comments on Macbeth and invites the reader to look at it from a different perspective.