Posted in Prose

The Witches of Hogwarts

Today, I realized something and although it is not of high importance and relevance, finding it on my own without googling for once was quite awesome if I may say so myself. I have already established how much I love Harry Potter in my first post, but there is something, or rather someone else, I love to the same extent and that is William Shakespeare (may sound a bit shocking but there you go). A few days ago, I was going through “Macbeth” and the song of the Witches sounded peculiarly familiar for some reason. Last night I was watching “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which happens to be my favourite, and the song (to which I will put a link below the post) that the choir sang sounded, again, peculiarly familiar. Then, it clicked. “Double Trouble” from Harry Potter is actually the slightly altered song of the Witches form Act 4 of  Macbeth.

The intertextual usage of the song is a nice touch considering the nature of the series,we have Alfonso Cuaron and his team to thank for the inclusion, and it is not the only instance where the Three Witches make an appearance. They are also called “The Weird Sisters” and the famous band in the books is also called as such, but what is peculiar is the way the song is altered in the movie.

“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 owlet’s wing.


In the cauldron boil and bake

Fillet of a fenny snake

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf”

When compared, the song of the Witches is much longer and it is not surprising that they decided to leave out most of the lyrics (are they still called lyrics when the song occurs in a play?), but their decision to change the sequence of some of them made me think, as there is no apparent reason to do so. Originally, the song goes like this:


Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron 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 owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.


Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf….(Act4.Sc1.10-23)


I would say that the animal imagery is emphasized here to create the atmosphere the book depicts; animals are used in potions, communication and as companions. “Frog” and “owl” can be allusions to the pets of  Harry and Neville and that makes the “dog” Sirius obviously, who gets introduced to us in this very book. Apart from those, the first stanza looks like the instructions to a potion (though I highly doubt that Snape would sing it). The second however, has some details from the previous, current and the next books. The “wolf” seems to be Lupin as the werewolf, who also gets introduced in the third book. The “snake” and “dragon” are part of the first book (the snake Harry sets on Dudley and Norberta who is shipped off to Romania with Charlie) and also the fourth (the fourth book came out in 2000 whereas the third movie did in 2004, so the timeline fits), but in “Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire” these two figures are more integral to the plot. There, we see Harry battling a Hungarian Horntail, which is the first task of the tournament and the reason why Harry and Ron reunite as friends after Ron’s jealousy (in “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows” it reoccurs: they break out of Azkaban on the back of a dragon after Ron returns to them following a jealousy fit, again) and that makes dragons important in the series, and also they are pretty cool. The snake mentioned in the song is an allusion to Nagini that we see in the fourth book and as she is a  horcrux she is essential to the plot, though at this point we only know that she is essential to Voldemort as she is the only reason that he’s alive. And this whole cauldron boiling, the “scale” and “tooth” reminds me of the rebirth of Voldemort; how he used bones and flesh and blood to beget himself. Here, tooth and scale are bone and flesh substitutes and following those with “witches’ mummy” makes the song a mirror image of what is to come, turns it into almost a foreshadowing.

What is also peculiar here is the end of the song: “Something wicked this way comes.” In the play, after the second witch utters this, Macbeth walks in, making himself the something wicked by himself because of the witches (another post idea right here). At first I took it as a foreshadowing of the arrival of Sirius Black, whom we all thought as guilty criminal, or even Peter Pettigrew and Voldemort, but after the song ends in the movie the camera shows Dumbledore. I don’t want to say that this was certainly intentional, but it probably was. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” had  also been published by the time the third movie was produced and we see the glimpse of how much of a wicked man he was and can be when he wants. He is probably the grayest character of the book-I still cannot decide whether he is good or not, but if this was the movie’s way of showing its take on Dumbledore’s character, then it is darn impressive.

The Song from the Movie


2 thoughts on “The Witches of Hogwarts

  1. That’s a good point (maybe, no probably I won’t be able to get this intertextuality) but you didn’t draw a conclusion about why the similarity of these songs is important. Towards the ending, you abandoned yourself to charm of Harry Potter but I, as a reader, still have questions about the songs’ similarity 🙂 P.s. I have not read Macbeth (probably you assumed that your reader has read it but no, there are people who didn’t read Macbet)
    On my love… -your ignorant reader-


    1. Okay, fair enough. I sometimes get carried away when talking about Harry Potter. What I was trying to achieve was that, by using the song of the witches Cuaron foreshadowed the upcoming books and included them in an intertexual context. It was a minor salutation to one of the major figures of witches in literature and the fact that he had probably read the books first (unlike David Yates but he is something else). So, there is no actual importance attributed to this intertextuality by me, but I was just impressed by Cuaron, that’s all 🙂


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