Macbeth is one of the many plays that were written by William
Shakespeare. It was written in 1605, it is based on a true-life story of ‘The History of Scotland’. Shakespeare mainly wrote his plays to entertain royalty. Shakespeare’s play is much more than a dramatic re-writing of the historical facts. He made many changes mainly so that Macbeth would be a ‘play fit for a king’.
One of the main characters in the Shakespearean play
‘Macbeth’, is the wife of Macbeth, lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is a very two-sided character in this play. At one point of the play she is very powerful ambitious and evil and then suddenly she becomes trance like and feels really guilty.
In those days the stereotypical view of women were
Hardworking housewives who cooked cleaned and looked after the family. This was mainly because their egocentric husbands overpowered them.
William Shakespeare went completely opposite this view, when
He wrote Macbeth:
Lady Macbeth wants to get rid of her femininity.
‘…Unsex me here…’
She wants to get rid of the stereotypical view of women and be powerful.
Lady Macbeth is described as a confident, ambitious, over-
Powering, strong-minded, demanding, manipulate, deceitful, influential, and scheming woman. In Macbeth she took over the role of men.
Lady Macbeth influences Macbeth to kill the king and brings out
his ambition. The effect of his uncontrolled ambition lead to death, Macbeth murders his king, which is known as the greatest of all crimes, by murdering Duncan, Macbeth gains the crown but loses love, friendship, respect and in the end his life. His crime is rightly punished.
Lady Macbeth’s wicked character has an extreme impact
towards her husband. Lady Macbeth is responsible for influencing her husband to commit both crimes; she unleashes the dark side of him and motivates him to become an evil horrendous man, which he isn’t. We start to see that lady Macbeth’s actions have a huge impact on Macbeth’s character as he transforms from a decent human being to an overly bitter creature.
In act 1 scene 5 we meet lady Macbeth for the first time, our
first impressions on lady Macbeth are that she is ambitious and passionate; she has no faith in her husband and will do anything to be in control, even by killing.
She knows her husband really well and immediately knows that he won’t have the strength to kill the king.
‘…Yet I do fear thy nature; it is too full of o’the milk of kindness…’
She realise that he doesn’t have the strength and will need her help.
One of the most noticeable examples of lady Macbeth being evil
is act 1 scene 5, where lady Macbeth is reading out the letter sent from her husband Macbeth. It tells her about the witches’ prophecies, which is the main cause of everything about to happen.
Lady Macbeth reads the letter written to her by Macbeth.
Shortly after reading it she makes the comment that Macbeth is too kind to murder Duncan and that he will need her help, strength and willpower to commit this crime.
She immediately concludes that the fastest way for Macbeth to
become king is by murdering Duncan.
‘…To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it…’
This shows is she is evil as she is prepared to kill for her own good.
However, after she hears that Macbeth is returning home, she
calls upon evil spirits to give her some aid.
‘…Unsex me here…’
She wants to get rid of her femininity and be string enough to encourage and persuade Macbeth into the murder.
She does this because she knows that she doesn’t have the
strength of will to persuade Macbeth into murdering Duncan after all. As soon as Macbeth arrives home she acts as if she has a heart of stone and that Macbeth is not a man if he is afraid of killing Duncan. This is a prime example of her deception towards him, and how she acts differently when she is with him and when she is alone.
In this scene we learn from her character that she is:
Determined, she wants to be powerful and be Queen. Straight after reading the letter, without hesitation, she decides that she must plan the death of king Duncan. She is also:
Manipulative, she realise straight away that she will have to persuade Macbeth to commit murder, as he is not strong enough to do it on his own. She realises that she has enough power over Macbeth to get him to do what she wants. She is also:
Unnatural, she is willing to sacrifice her female side to a darker masculine one to give her strength. She is also:
Evil, she wants to be controlled by evil spirits to give her strength. She wants to ignore any goodness in her so that she can carry out the murder without feeling guilty.
In this scene her language is very strong and powerful. She is
able to persuade Macbeth into what she wants him to do. The audience at this point will be extremely shocked and revolted by her horrific actions. She is suggesting that the king should be killed, which is the greatest crime of all, especially in a Shakespearean audiences eye because of the divine right of kings. To murder any man is a crime, but those who lived at the time of Shakespeare thought that the murder of a king was greatest of all crimes. Kings were appointed by God, to rule as His deputies; rebellion against a true king was like rebellion against God.
Up to this point she has kept control, throughout the play she is
persuading Macbeth and making sure he doesn’t change his mind. In act 2 scene 5 she severely scold Macbeth for having second thoughts about committing the murder. She tries to get rid of his rational thoughts by saying that he must not really love her if he can change his mind on the murder, which she says he promised her he would do. She then says that if she promised him something, even if it was as awful as killing her newborn babe, she would do it. Despite the fact that he never made such a promise, he fails to realize that she is lying to him.
She then continues by making fun of him until she has weakened
his position on the subject and he finally agrees to her plan. However, in act 2 scene 2, when she is alone, she makes the statement that she would have killed the sleeping Duncan had he not looked like her father. This just proves that she isn’t nearly as strong and as evil as she pretends to be around Macbeth.
The almost superhuman strength lady Macbeth rallies for the
occasion and her artful and sly ability are shown through her meticulous attention to detail regarding the murder. When Macbeth returns to their chamber she goes back to the murder scene and cleverly smears the grooms with Duncan’s blood. However, her morals prevailed just a while before as revealed through her comment that she would have killed Duncan herself had he not “resembled (her) father as he slept”.
In act 2 scene 3 she faints after Macbeth admits to killing the
guards. She tries to defend Macbeth after he has seen banquo’s ghost by creating an excuse to explain his odd behaviour. This is the last time the audience sees lady Macbeth. It is significant as the last time we saw her in the play (at the banquet) although weaker, she was still in control. Now in this final scene she has lost control and lost her sanity.
The changes in her character are very dramatic as they are
sudden. She loses control, she is sleep walking every night and acting out the murder of Duncan over and over again. The burden of lady Macbeth’s conscience becomes too great for her and her mental and physical condition deteriorates. A gentlewoman observes her sleepwalking and consults a doctor. The doctor and the lady observe lady Macbeth sleepwalking, madly trying to cleanse her hands of the blood of Duncan and Macduff’s family. Still in her sleep, lady Macbeth asks, “what, will these hands ne’re be clean?” foreseeing that she will never have a peace of mind. She also retells events of the day Duncan was murdered. The doctor tells the gentlewoman that what lady Macbeth needs is spiritual and not physical help.
She becomes scared and is no longer strong, but instead is
afraid of evil. She carries a candle with her all the time, as she does not want to be in darkness. This in contrast with her behaviour earlier on in the play is very shocking, as then she was calling the spirits and wanted to be far away from any goodness and light. She feels really guilty; she keeps having the same nightmare over and over again about her trying to rub the blood of her hands, comparing this to earlier on in the play it is very surprising as she found it really easy to wash the bloods off her hands and forget about what had happened.
Her language is simple and child like, she speaks in riddles and
makes no sense at all. She is really confused and its like as if she is in a trance.
Lady Macbeth’s condition worsens, and she goes in and out of
sleep with delirious visions. Macbeth asks the doctor to cure her or give her a drug that will erase the troubles of the heart. The doctor responds that he cures physical not moral problems. Later, as the battle ensues outside of Dunsinane, by unspecified means lady Macbeth commits suicide.
At the beginning lady Macbeth finds strength to entice Macbeth
to murder Duncan and to follow through with the murder herself. As times advances though, her pretended strength diminishes as she fights the torments of her conscience. Tending to her conscience engulfs and destabilizes her so that she cannot support Macbeth against Malcolm. Lady Macbeth’s attempts suppress her conscience to fail. At the end she chooses death because she can no longer bear the torments of her guilt.
At this point in the play the audience are meant to feel really
sorry for lady Macbeth. Whatever happened, she deserved it, she new it was coming to her. Shakespeare chose to kill lady Macbeth to make ‘Macbeth’ a dramatic play. Now that she is dead Macbeth will die to as he depended on her.