The given excerpt from Macbeth is situated in Act 1 Scene 5 of the play. In this scene, Lady Macbeth reads to herself a letter she has received from Macbeth. She resolves to convince her husband to do what is required to seize the crown. A messenger informs Lady Macbeth about the king’s forthcoming arrival and Macbeth’s too. As she awaits their arrival, she delivers a soliloquy after which she resolves to put her natural femininity aside and do the soiled deeds to seize that crown she eagerly wants.
Towards the end of the scene, Macbeth enters; consequently, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth conjure up a plan to kill King Duncan before the night ends. As the extract progresses, it brings about important themes in the play such as the ambition in the characters of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth and what it leads to, it also presents equivocation and the theme of natural order in the play. Ambition in Macbeth, through the witches’ prophecy leads to his eventual rise to the throne.
It is important to see how Macbeth’s aspirations were driven by the witches’ prophecy as in the previous scenes he was depicted as a brave and loyal general who proved his deserved respect and loyalty to King Duncan time and again; and later he went to take the throne through the murder of King Duncan which eventually led to his demise. Macbeth writes in his letter that the witches me him ‘ in the day of success’, which shows that Macbeth was already on a high after winning a battle and proving his loyalty to Kind Duncan.
However, his conviction that they had ‘more in them than mortal knowledge’ shows that the fire of ambition has already been ignited in him. The mere fact that he wants to believe and wants to make Lady Macbeth believe in the witches’ prophecy shows that he has started dreaming of becoming the Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth writes that he ‘burned in desire’ to fulfill his curiosity by asking them questions. This desire is not just the desire he had to ask question to the witches but also to become the Thane of Cawdor.
If he didn’t have that ambition in him to become the thane Of Cawdor he would not want to ask the witches any further questions. Macbeth asks Lady Macbeth to not be ‘ignorant of what greatness is promised thee’, this again shows how Macbeth does not want to ignore the witches’ prophecy and that his inner desire has been ignited by the witches. Macbeth writes that he was ‘rapt in the wonder’ of the witches’ prophecy, showing the extent to which the site of being King had fascinated him and given rise to his latent desire.
His mention of lady Macbeth as his ‘partner in greatness’ depicts the assurance Macbeth has of the witches’ prophecy being true. This ends up being ironic as their relationship dwindles with his subsequent rise to the throne. Similar to the ambition in Macbeth, the ambition in Lady Macbeth is ignited by her reading of Macbeth’s letter; this leads to the unveiling of the heinous murder plot and eventual murder of Kind Duncan. Lady Macbeth is convinced that the witches’ prophecy is an indemnity and she shows this in her soliloquy when she says ‘shalt be what thou art promised’.
She is struck by the idea of becoming queen so much so that she starts getting paranoid about Macbeth’s incapability to ‘catch the nearest way’ showing her impatience and desire to be queen. Lady Macbeth, in her soliloquy, talks about how Macbeth ‘must do’ what he ‘dost feat to do’ in order to embrace kingship. This shows the extent to which Macbeth’s letter has given way to the desires of Lady Macbeth as she does not mind Macbeth doing what is feared in order to achieve her desire to be queen. Her emphasis on the ‘golden round’ again depicts her want to be queen.
Through the soliloquy one can almost see how excited and impatient she gets after reading the letter from Macbeth, which led to the surfacing of her ambition. This ambition leads to Lady Macbeth calling upon dominant spirits. She calls upon the spirits that possess her to ‘tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here’ in order to remove any compassionate feelings for she wants to commit the sinful deeds she wishes to. Shakespeare uses double meaning in this extract to take Lady Macbeth’s ambition forward. The attendant’s dialogue stating the arrival of the ‘king’ puzzles Lady Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth is befuddled at the fact that ‘the king’ is coming. She can only think of Macbeth as ‘the king’ who is returning. This shows how much Lady Macbeth wants to rise to power and also shows how power hungry the letter from Macbeth has made her. This leads to her proclaiming ‘the king’s ‘ arrival as ‘great news’. The ‘great news’ is not so great after all as it is a heinous plan to commit ‘the king’s’ murder. Her ambition that surfaces through this use of double meaning leads her to pleading to her spirits to ‘unsex her’ to commit the murder.
The desires of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth that lead to the eventual murder of King Duncan show the disruption of the natural order that is a prominent theme in the play. The natural order of succession is disrupted through the plot to kill Duncan. According to the natural order of succession, Duncan’s eldest son Malcolm would inherit kingship if Duncan were to die. But though the execution of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s plot, through which Macbeth attains kingship, the natural order of succession is disrupted.
Also, Lady Macbeth summoning her spirits to ‘unsex’ her act as disruptions of the natural order. She summons the spirits to get rid of her humane characteristics in order to commit the murder of King Duncan. The act of getting rid of certain characteristics is again, disrupting the natural order. Equivocation is an important theme in the play and is seen in this extract. The use of equivocation at the time is in reference to Henry Garnet and the Gunpowder Plot he was involved in. It is the witches’ equivocation that surfaces the ambition of Macbeth and in turn Lady Macbeth.
Macbeth falls prey to the equivocation and lets his mind take control of him. When lady Macbeth talks about the ‘valor’ in her tongue, equivocation arises. ‘Valor’ is associated with bravery and heroism, like in the case of Macbeth. Whereas in this case, it is associated with the evil in Lady Macbeth’s tongue, which will help her murder King Duncan. Through this extract, Shakespeare mainly brings out the ambition driven characters of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth along with equivocation and natural order. The extract helps understand the characters better and also the events that follow.
Cite this Act 1 Scene 5 Macbeth Essay
Act 1 Scene 5 Macbeth Essay. (2019, May 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/act-1-scene-5-macbeth/