How common were witches in shakespeares time?
There were no real witches in Shakespeare's time, because they don't exist!
But, there is no exact figure as to how many women were thought to be witches. There were apparently thousands of them around!
If a woman was seen to own a black cat, or if she made special herbal medicines, then she was seen as a witch.
There were witch-hunts, and around 16000 (sixteen thousand) women were killed because they were thought to be witches. (They were burned at the stake, or drowned.)
Hope I helped you! :)
In Shakespeare's time, certain people were really frightened of witches and believed that they were a clear and present danger to their country. The history of the Salem Witch Trials is an example of this kind of fear, which was only starting in Shakespeare's day. Throughout the seventeenth century, fundamentalist religion became very powerful in England and even overthrew the monarchy, and it is religious fundamentalists who generally are frightened of witches.
In the seventeenth century, some people took witches very seriously indeed, as the events in Salem Massachusetts show. But curiously, in Shakespeare's play Macbeth, the witches are kind of silly and sing cute little songs. These songs were apparently added to the play by another playwright, Thomas Middleton, because the audience wanted the witches to be funnier. Nowadays no productions of Macbeth actually use the silly witch lines, because modern audiences want the witches to…
Whether or not the audience believed in the existence of real witches, the witches in Macbeth are for entertainment. Nobody thought they were anything other than a group of actors. The witches may have originally been played for laughs, and certainly the addition of songs and dialogue and the character Hecate from Middleton's play The Witch made them very silly indeed.