Song of the Witches: Double, Double Toil and Trouble

Song of the Witches: “Double, Double Toil and Trouble”

by William Shakespeare (From Macbeth)

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Summary of Double, Double Toil and Trouble

  • Popularity: “The Song of the Witches” is taken from Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, a famous playwright. This composition is highly popular in English literature and was first published in 1623. These poetic words are spoken by three Scottish witches when they were casting the spell. However, its popularity lies in the subject of supernatural phenomena.
  • “Double, Double Toil and Trouble” as a Representative of Evil: This song predict Macbeth as a king, but the witches continue to cast their spell to create more trouble in his life. These supernatural creatures play a significant role in the advancement of the play. They successfully deceive Macbeth by filling his mind with evil thoughts and greed. Their prophecies derail him from the right path and make him stand amid pure evil. Their appearance is always a bad omen, and their spells are tricky. They take advantage of Macbeth’s weakness and tempt him to make the wrong choices.
  • Major Themes in “Double, Double Toil and Trouble”: Magic and evil are the major themes of the poem. The witches prepare a cauldron by adding animal bodies, foreshadowing the imminent evil. In fact, the whole text revolves around their wickedness and prophecies. Their constant appearance creates mystery and tension. They mislead Macbeth, who in turn kills everyone who is a threat to the crown. They make him stand at the verge of destruction. It is due to their foul words Macbeth loses his purity, goodness, and loyalty toward the king and meets his tragic end.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Double Double Toil and Trouble”

Literary devices are tools that allow writers to choose their words and create layers of meanings and convey their ideas, feelings, and emotions to the readers. Shakespeare has also employed some literary devices in this piece of poetic recitation to show the wickedness of the witches. The analysis of some of the literary devices used has been given below.

  • Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as /ou/ sound in “Double, double toil and trouble”.
  • Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /f/ in “Fillet of a fenny snake” and /b/ sound in “Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
  • Imagery: The entire poem contains vivid imagery to help the reader visualize the witches actions and spells as they throw animals in the cauldron. For example:

“Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog.”

  • Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. Shakespeare has used the word “cauldron” as the symbol of witchcraft.
  • Simile: A simile is a figure of speech used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. Shakespeare has used simile in the tenth line of the poem where he compares “charm” with “hell-broth”.
  • Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as /b/ and /l/ sounds in “Double, double toil and trouble”.

The closer glimpse of literary analysis reveals that Shakespeare has skilfully presented the nature of witches and their role in the entire play under cover of these literary devices.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Double Double Toil and Trouble”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  • Rhyme Scheme: The whole piece follows the ABAB rhyme scheme.
  • End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Shakespeare has used end rhyme in this poem such as in the first and second lines of the first stanza the rhyming words are, “double”, “trouble”, “snake” and “bake.”
  • Stressed and Unstressed Syllables: These two types of syllables are used in trochee such as the first is stressed and second is unstressed syllable in “Double Double Toil and Trouble” and this pattern continues throughout the poem.
  • Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “Double Double Toil and Trouble” which has created musical quality in the poem.
  • Refrain: The lines that are repeated in the poem at some distance in the poem are called refrain. The lines, “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble” are repeated with the same words in the first and last stanza of the poem. Hence, they are considered as a refrain.

Quotes to be Used

  1. These lines can be used to scare anyone or for Halloween.

“Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing.”

2. These lines can be used for teaching phonics and also use as an example for alliteration.

“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.”