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How is Lady Macbeth Presented by Shakespeare?

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In what ways does she change through the course of the play, and how does this affect the audience’s response? In this essay I am going to be concentrating on Lady Macbeth, showing how her complex character changes dramatically throughout the course of the play. The play is mostly about Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s ambition for the throne. The act of usurping, Presenting how Macbeth wrongly, illegitimately seized the throne with his fatal flaw which was greed and ambition.

Lady Macbeth’s character was very different, to an archetypical view of a woman in the Jacobean times, she was seen to be equal to Macbeth and as the relationship progresses the relationship begins to disintegrate. In the 17^th century women were seen as being second-class citizens and were considered inferior to men. They were not entitled to-do such things that men were allowed such as they were not allowed to act and were not able to acquire a proper education.

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Also, it was harder for women because they also had to cope with the fact that they may be seized as being witches. At the time it was written in, James I was king and he was against witches and anything of the supernatural. He had seen witches to have diabolical powers, predict the future, fly, and bring night to daytime and demonic possessions on people.

King James I had what he thought first hand experience of witches, he believed that they had plotted to kill him. So he then passed a law, the law said that anyone suspected of witchcraft would be sentenced to be burned at the stack. So a Jacobean audience wouldn’t like the fact that there were witches in the play or that Lady Macbeth was talking in a chant like way, as a witch. The audience first encounters Lady Macbeth in Act 1 scene 5. In this scene Lady Macbeth has received a letter from her husband, Macbeth, and begins to read it. Lady Macbeth’s reaction when she reads her husband’s letter is powerful and dramatic. First element that shocks the audience is that Macbeth opens the letter with “My dearest partner of greatness” which shocks the Jacobean audience because they are not used to seeing a women to be equal to the man of the house. Also because it disturbs the natural order, which starts with God and then the King who is his representative of him on earth and then the thanes under him and then there wives under that and she disrupts the natural order by being equal to him. Yet when she begins to read the letter she finds out that Macbeth has become thane of caurdor.

That’s when she appears to act differently towards the audience she begins to act cunning, evil, very ambitious and powerful. After she reads the letter she begins her soliloquy, which begins to reveal her inner most feelings, thoughts and emotions. When she begins to talk the audience may be led to believe that she is a witch as she talks in a chanting, spell like way, as this quote shows, “Hie thee hither that I may pour my spirts in thine ear” We learn that she may be the more dominant character of the two, because she is seen to be manipulative, ambitious and powerful. From when she finishes reading her husbands letter she then decides that he is going to be king, and that she will make sure of that. ‘Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be What thou art promised.’ This quotation tells us as if she and her husband are thinking exactly the same thing. She does not hesitate for a moment. In the beginning of the play the captain refers to Macbeth being very good, he says “Showed like a rebel’s whore: but all’s to weak: For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name)” Quotation is explaining how well, and brave Macbeth is for killing the enemy.

The she refers to him by saying: “Yet I do fear thy nature, / it is too full o’th’milk of human kindness”/ “I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valour of my tongue.” The quotation amplifying that she is scared that maybe he won’t be able to murder King Duncan, and this then gives the audience two different views of Macbeth, because the captain is telling the audience of how good and brave he is and Lady Macbeth is saying that he may be afraid to do the murdering, so her view and the view of the captain are quite contradictory. Lady Macbeth’s appraisal would shock a Jacobean audience because she is then seen to be the more dominant one out of the two which would then shock the audience because then were not used to seeing a dominant women. In act 1 scene 5 towards the end of the scene when Lady Macbeth has just finished reading the letter that Macbeth sent her and then she receives a message from one of the attendants saying that Macbeth is coming and the king is coming as well.

This then gets Lady Macbeth thinking and yet again she begins another soliloquy. In this she knows that she needs to strengthen herself and that the murder of the king will need evil power, and evil is not naturally within her. So when again we see her witch like qualities where she sounds like she is saying an incantation or spell. “unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty” In this quote she is calling on the sprits to take away her humanity, de-humanize her, this to take away her instincts and conscience, anything that makes her a good, kind person. People in the 17^th century would have found everything that Lady Macbeth saying to be quite disturbing because she is not following the archetypical view of a wife in the 17^th century, as a wife in the 17^th century was seen to be good, kind, motherly and to obey her husband. This is seen to be very unnatural. She also begins to contrast hell with heaven, purity against evil. “Women’s breasts and take my milk for gall you murd’ring min- -isters” In this quote it shows that she is talking about something pure, natural, feminine and motherly and turns it to something evil, suggesting turning her milk into poison.

The similarities that we can draw from Lady Macbeth and the witches are that they both talk in chant like way as if saying an incantation. She also uses symbolism to create dramatic tension “the raven himself is hoarse” referring to the raven as death. In act 1 scene 7 Macbeth has arrived begins to talk about murdering King Duncan but then keeps it out of his head. “I am his kinsman and his subject… his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself.” Quotation is implying that he should be loyal to him and not to murder him, and the etiquette involved of being `host’. He tells Lady Macbeth this when she then begins to persuade him. She begins to do this by using different methods, strategies to persuade him to change his mind. She does this by opening her speech by saying, “What beast was’t then that made you break your enterprise to me?” The quotation is simply pointing out that he was the one to raise the idea of this first. Then she begins to accuse him of being a coward. “Art thou afeard to be in the same on thine own act and valour as thou art in desire” In this quote she is saying that he is to afraid to do what he wants which is to kill King Duncan.

This is an important part of her approach. Macbeth’s rank and fame depend on his courage and bravery. After this she then begins to try a number of different tactics as suggesting to him that he is `unmanly’. ” I have given suck, and know how tender `tis to love the babe that milks me- I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this.” In this quote she is acting very unnatural, and also uses terrible, violent imagery `dashed the brains out’ as a shock tactic. She explains to Macbeth that if she had made a promise like he did she would keep it. She does this also because she knows Macbeth’s doubt needs to be overcome quickly and that needed extreme measures, she must persuade him because the delay of one night, the chance may be gone to do so.

Then she begins to encourage him, “But screw you courage to the sticking place, And we’ll not fail” In this she is encouraging him by explaining to him that they will accomplish there plan and not fail. Then she begins to present him with the plan of how they would do it, she begins to tell him this because she means that there are apparently no obstacles for Macbeth to overcome. At the end of the scene Macbeth closes it by saying, “I am settled, an bend up Earth corporal agent to this terrible feat. Away, and mock the time with fairest show: False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” Lady Macbeth has successfully persuaded him. He is saying that he will be pretending to be polite to the King but he really wants him dead. In this quote he is also echoing what Lady Macbeth said previously in the play at the beginning when they receive the letter from Macbeth, “Look like th’innocent flower but be the serpent under’t” In Act 1 scene 2 and Act 3 scene 2 was when the murder of King Duncan had already taken place. At the beginning of the scene Lady Macbeth seems to be drunk, which may suggest that whatever she fed the chamber-men she also took, and she got slightly intoxicated by the poison that she made for them. Yet still it made her seem more courageous.

“That which hath made them drunk, hath made me bold, what hath quenched the hath given me fire” In this quote she is saying what she gave the chamber-men some what intoxicated her up and fired her up. Yet from it she was still a bit shaken up, such as the `own that shrieked’, this then startled her; this is then seen as pathetic fallacy. Also in this scene we experience another side of Lady Macbeth, we find out that she does still have a bit of morality (conscience) left in her, that she is not completely evil. “Had he not resemble/ my father as he slept. I had done’t” The quotation is implying that if King Duncan, did not look like her father then she would have killed him. At first Macbeth had to deal with the guilt of murdering Duncan, but then Lady Macbeth keeps telling him to get over it. Macbeth is then traumatised by this event and cannot believe that he has done such a thing. He then gets fixated by the `blood on his hands’. “The multitudinous seas incarnadine making green one red” Saying if he washes his hands in the sea it will turn the green sea into red, from the blood. Lady Macbeth keeps telling him to get over it.

“A little water cleans us of this deed” The quotation is implying that a bit of water will clean the blood straight off. In Act 3 scene 2 this when the relationship turns and Macbeth begins to turn into the more dominant character, Lady Macbeth is no more and as of now Macbeth is doing all the talking now and plotting the next crime. Implying that Lady Macbeth isn’t sure of what to do and Macbeth is. In Act 3 scene 4, this is when Lady Macbeth and Macbeth hold a banquet. In this scene Macbeth begins acting very strange, because this is when he had just had Banquo killed and is hallucinating Banquo reappearing at the Banquet. Lady Macbeth’s reaction to Macbeth’s behaviour was very scornful she is also acting very malicious towards him. Yet towards the guests she showed a different persona, her public persona that leads back to the comment that she made by the beginning of the play. “Look like th’innocent flower but be the serpent under it” The quotation is implying that her public persona she is acting like the sweet, innocent flower, but her private persona (towards Macbeth) is the serpent. As the flower in her public persona she is acting very politely, formally and ceremoniously but aside from that she is acting very scornful towards Macbeth. “Are you a man?” Questioning him about his masculinity.

Yet her character begins to change she is beginning to become more anxious and insecure. Yet she is becoming increasingly desperate and attempting to smooth everything over to maintain an air of normality. But then the ghost of Banquo has left Macbeth and he then begins to act normal again. ” Im a man again”, in the quotation he then begins to act very independently, showing her that he is back in control of things. That Lady Macbeth’s influence on him is diminishing. This then begins to produce a distance between them, showing that the relationship they once had ” my dearest partner in greatness” is disintegrating, these drifting further apart. And he is becoming more and more of the dominant character. In Act 5 scene 1 this is where Lady Macbeth begins sleepwalking. In this scene Lady Macbeth is being portrayed to be quite mad. She has changed from the beginning of the play because she is now beginning to feel guilty. “What will these hands ne’er be cleaned?” “Here’s the smell of blood still” Saying that her hands will not be clean of the blood of those they have murdered. Yet this goes back to what Macbeth said as the beginning of the play when he murdered King Duncan.

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean was this blood clean from my hand” Macbeth said this at the beginning when he had just murdered King Duncan and was feeling very guilty about it. And Lady Macbeth said to him “A little water cleans us of this deed”, and now she is gone delusional from the guilt, she is not in control anymore. Her language is beginning to be disjointed and fragmented, and there is a sense that she is disorientated. There is also confusion reflected in her language, by the way she speaks, such as she has a strange repetition in the way she speaks ” to bed to bed”. This then suggests to the audience that Lady Macbeth does have a conscience; she is not completely evil anymore, she is not like what she was at the beginning of the play. I believe that a Jacobean audience would have believed she deserved all this because she seemed to have witch like qualities, they would have thought she deserved it. Now there are more arguments of whether the audience feel pity for her or if they also think that she deserves it.

When the doctor diagnoses her he believes that she is acting like this because she has done unnatural deeds/ acts. Showing that she is disturbing the Natural Order, saying that it is not natural to kill someone, murder that she committed attacking the Natural Order. “Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles… More needs she the divine that a physicians” This then contrasts with what Macbeth says later because he begins to go on about how life is meaningless. He doesn’t care too much anymore. He also largely unmoved about her death, doesn’t grieve for her. “They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly, but bear like I must fight the curse.” He believes that there is a lesser chance he will win and he is referring saying that he feels like he is trapped and he might not win. Overall in the play the presentation of Lady Macbeth changes.

Such as from the start she is very ambitious, manipulative during the opening of the letter that Macbeth sent her at the start. The audience to this act very shocked because we find out that she and her husband are equal to each other, which disturbs the Natural Order. But as the play progresses she goes through change. Then she becomes very malicious and dominant out of the two when she is persuading Macbeth to Kill King Duncan. The audience would yet again be shocked because she is not acting very lady like; she is also controlling her husband, again disturbing the Natural Order by committing treason. Then at the end of the play when she is sleepwalking, she is acting very child like, vulnerable and her speech is changing in verse not in prose anymore. Audience feels possibly pity or they may think that she deserves it because she does “unnatural deeds” she disrupts the Natural Order, and a Jacobean audience would believe that is why she has then gone mad.

Cite this How is Lady Macbeth Presented by Shakespeare?

How is Lady Macbeth Presented by Shakespeare?. (2017, Oct 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/lady-macbeth-presented-shakespeare/

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