William Shakespeare sometimes interestingly features Goddesses and Gods in his canon of plays: enough that they can be put together into a series-
Hecate is without a doubt one of the most potent, evocative, and potentially unnerving Deities, fascination with Whom extended from Classical times through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Controversial, She has been characterized as everything from a terrifying Spook-Deity to a loving Mother-Goddess; enigmatic, there has been dissension as to Her place of origin, the nature of Her worship, and the exact role that She played in the lives of Her followers. She is without question heavily identified with Witches; Sophocles, Euripides, and Ovid all call Her the Goddess of Witches, and I can attest that She is unusually popular with Gay Male Pagans, a large number of whom seem especially drawn to Her (any Gay Guy gathering of Witches that I can think of invariably contains a notable percentage of Hecate devotees). Primarily, She is a Goddess of the Underworld; of Ghosts and the Dead; and of the Dark of the Moon. She is an intermediary Deity, however, traveling back and forth between the realms of the World and the Underworld, significantly lighting the way with Her two torches (She is an illuminating Deity in this capacity).
None of this nuanced interpretation appears to matter, however, when Her portrayal in Shakespeare’s Macbeth is considered. Probably the Bard did not originally include Her in his play; Her scenes are strikingly out of character and tone with the rest of his work. The suspicion is that a later writer “jazzed up” Shakespeare’s original script with the addition of Hecate, Whose scenes seem to exist primarily as an excuse to introduce song-and-dance interludes (if you know Macbeth at all, you can appreciate how tonally “off” singing and dancing are in the show). One of the most famous and notable dramatic representations of the Goddess of Witches is, therefore, one of the most clumsy and cement-handed.
In Macbeth (Act III, scene v), the Three Witches, or Weird Sisters, enter to meet Hecate: “Why, how now, Hecate! You look angerly.”
Hecate: “Have I not reason, beldames as you are, saucy and overbold? How did you dare to trade and traffic with Macbeth in riddles and affairs of death; and I, the mistress of your charms, the close contriver of all harms, was never called to bear my part or show the glory of our art? And which is worse, all you have done hath been but for a wayward son, spiteful and wrathful, who as others do, loves for his own ends, not for you. But make amends now; get you gone, and at the pit of Acheron [a river in the Classical Underworld] meet me in the morning; thither he will come to know his destiny. Your vessels and your spells provide, your charms and everything beside. I am for the air; this night I’ll spend unto a dismal and a fatal end; great business must be wrought ere noon. Upon the corner of the moon there hangs a vaporous drop profound; I’ll catch it ere it come to ground; and that, distilled by magic sleights, shall raise such artificial sprites as by the strength of their illusion shall draw him on to his confusion. He shall spurn fate, scorn death and bear his hopes above wisdom, grace, and fear; and you all know, security is mortals’ chiefest enemy. [Stage directions indicate that music begins, with a notation that a song called 'Come Away, come away' begins] Hark! I am called; my little spirit, see, sits in a foggy cloud and waits for me.” And Hecate exits the stage in some fashion, after a strangely confusing scene that seems oddly out-of-touch with the rest of this grim, suspenseful, and tightly focused show.
The Witch Goddess’ second appearance, in the middle of the famous Cauldron Scene (Act IV, scene i), plays no better. After the Witches’ well-known “Eye of newt, toe of frog” speech, here comes Hecate. “O, well done! I commend your pains, and everyone shall share in the gains. And now about the cauldron sing, like Elves and Faeries in a ring, enchanting all that you put in!” Stage directions indicate that a song called “Black Spirits” commences; the rest of the scene, and of the play, demonstrate how singularly inappropriate singing and dancing, and elves and faeries are, at this juncture, however interesting it is to note a reference to elves and faeries “ring-dancing” (dancing in a circle). Hecate is a fascinating Goddess, and would make for a remarkable stage presentation; however much Macbeth may be one of Shakespeare’s finest plays, although- it is not a good showcase for the Light-Bringing Underworld Queen-Goddess of Witches, who (all things considered) comes across as a spiteful and petty Entity, rather than the austere, grave, and profound Divinity that She is.