Lady Macbeth Essay, Research Paper
To metamorphose ones character through years of experience and age is salutary. To deteriorate ones character through a short period of fast decisions and unsure actions is perilous. Lady Macbeth proves the truth to this theory. The impulsive mistakes and power-hungry tactics littered the journey Lady MacBeth paves throughout this play that ultimately ends in her death. She feels overwhelmed by all that is happening, both physically and mentally, and decides to end her own life. The Tragedy of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare illustrates two seemingly ordinary nobles whose lives intertwine in a whirlwind of power, corruption, and the supernatural resulting in their descents. They were both so wrapped up in this greedy world they failed to consider the consequences of their actions more realistically. Macbeth started to succumb to the belief that deeds “must be acted ere they be scann d,”(III.IV.140). Lady Macbeth in particular loses sight of rationality from the play s beginning to end. She feigns an image of ruthlessness and believes she can handle the intrusion of unearthly evil in her mind and soul. She presents a seemingly stable foundation of control in which she clutches with an iron fist. As Macbeth becomes less dependent on his wife, she loses more control. She loses control of her husband, but mostly, of herself, proving her vacillating truth. Lady Macbeth s character gradually disintegrates through a false portrayal of unyielding strength, an unsteady control of her husband and shifting involvement with supernatural powers.
Throughout the duration of play Lady Macbeth s truly decrepit and vulnerable nature is revealed. Lady Macbeth has been the iron fist and authority icon for Macbeth, yet deep down, she never carried such traits to begin with. This duality in Lady Macbeth s character plays a huge role in planting the seed for Macbeth s downfall and eventual demise. At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is introduced as a dominant, controlling, heartless wife with an obsessive ambition to achieve kingship for her husband. Her weak, sheltered, unsure and unstable condition is only revealed at the end of the play. However, the audience begins to see hints of this hidden nature by the manner in which Macbeth addresses her. Contrary to her supposed ruthless nature, her husband regards her as a pure being. He attempts to shield her from foreign agencies by saying, Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, (III.II.45). It is only in private that Lady Macbeth shows her weaknesses. As opposed to her seemingly violent persona, Lady Macbeth is horrified by blood, and during her sleepwalking soliloquy refers to her hand as if suggesting a delicate stature by uttering this: All the perfumes / of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. (V. I. 43-44). Although Lady Macbeth is unstable and vulnerable, she uses dramatic analogies to persuade her openly fragile husband to follow through with the first murder:
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. (I.VII.54-59).
Her shocking and persuasive effect on Macbeth convinces him that he is settled, (I.III.79). By hearing a woman who seems to be fearless of his anxieties, he is soothed. But even here, however, we begin to catch a greater glimpse of Lady Macbeth s very unstable mind. By using such a graphic description, she reflects her straining desperation for Macbeth s commitment. She knows that Macbeth is a strong person, and she must seem stronger to convince him to go along with her. She now has to wear a mask of this determined and cold character, creating more distance between her true self and Macbeth. Lady Macbeth has the persuasiveness capable of humiliating someone into murder, but has no personal capacity to execute the deed, though she spoke, at times, as if she would take the opportunity whenever it arose. Lady Macbeth imagines that she has ability to hide her true emotions, though her mind is as frail as an egg (IV.III.83). She claims that she can act to look like the innocent flower/But be the serpent under t (I.V.64-65). Lady Macbeth imagines that she has the capability to be a remorseless and determined villain, but she isn t anything of the like in reality. In fact, at the end of the play Lady Macbeth is so feeble-minded she becomes overwhelmed with guilt. The guilt that has been set upon her by her husband sprung from convincing him to kill. In reality, the final results are only accountable to Lady MacBeth. She is the one who convinces her husband to commit the murders, therefore ending in a series of emotional and mental problems. As the play begins, she is a motivated, power-hungry woman with no boundaries, but as the play moves on, Lady Macbeth begins to fall further and further into a guilt-filled world, ending in her own suicide.
Throughout the play, Lady Macbeth s shifting control over her husband is mainly responsible for aggravating the struggle between Macbeth s morality, devotion and vaulting ambition. In the beginning, she believes matters should be taken into her own hands from the moment she receives the letter about the witches prophecies. At the dawn of the play, Lady Macbeth believes that Macbeth doesn t have the spirit to catch the nearest way (I.V.17). At this moment, she decides that quick action will be the basis of her reasoning and planning. Her spur-of-the-moment orders will affect Macbeth so deeply his character will be forever changed. Lady Macbeth intentionally tries to ignore consequence and concentrates on securing Macbeth s future as king of Scotland. She looks to the quickest way as one that may lack rationality, but shortens their path to the throne. She receives a letter from Macbeth with the news that he was prophesied as the king of Scotland. As soon as her eyes ran across the words, she said, thou shalt be / What thou art promised (I.V.14-15). She suggests, by this quick reaction, her intentions to be a major participant in ensuring Macbeth s royal success. After the murder is plotted between the two, Duncan decides to make a surprise appearance at Macbeth s house. Lady Macbeth tells her husband to put the great business into my dispatch (I.V.67), taking charge and covering for Macbeth, who is defenseless to the overbearing tension residing in himself. As the situation escalates, Lady Macbeth tries to soothe him by explaining that things without remedy / Should be without regard: What s done is done (III.II.11-12). She has changed her technique with Macbeth from shock and intimidation to restraint. She says, You must leave this (III.II.36), which sounds calming and unworried. Her control over Macbeth has waned, and over herself, her control is dwindling as each second passes. The fire she once had, which drove Macbeth forward is now no more than a minute spark. She is beginning to lose that controlling stiffness. She asks Macbeth, what s to be done (III.II.44), which is a drastic change in control. She doesn t voice any opinions or plans of any sort for the rest of the play. Lady Macbeth is now in awe of Macbeth, a contrast to when Macbeth was in awe of Lady Macbeth s infanticide analogy. She, by the end of the play, has lost self-confidence by realizing that most of this situation is a result of her impulsiveness and instability. When Lady Macbeth finally recognizes her incompetence, all else crumbles, including her husband. The significance of this character flaw secures her role as the foundation and authority in the beginning of the play, which plants the seed for failure from beginning to end.
Lady Macbeth s relationship with the supernatural evolves from confidently seeking and obtaining the evilness, to being victimized by its power. At one point, Lady Macbeth demands the assistance of unearthly evil forces: You murdering ministers Come, thick night [from] the dunnest smoke of hell (I.VI. 47-50). Being totally rash, Lady Macbeth summons the evil as if she can undermine the power of darkness to her advantage. She asks for the assistance of the evil, implying that she holds no resident evil in her soul. It must act as an additive to fulfill a transformation. Lady Macbeth is creating, instead of magnifying, wickedness that she must manifest in order to propel Macbeth. She embraces the darkness and welcomes it. By being so crude in her requests, she must believe that she is far too valorous to be negatively affected by it. It is rather ironic to see the utter reversal of this at the end of the play. She eventually goes delirious, carrying a lit candle wherever she walked (V.I.17.5). Indeed, this behavior is a pathetic attempt to try and fend off the real, evil darkness with a man-made light. She looks to Lady Macduff with a countenance of that which would belong to a ghost. She begins to express a compassion that she had never felt (or at least shown) when she utters, The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she / now? What, will these hands ne er be clean? (V.I.37-38). Lady Macbeth s decaying remorse she had chosen to restrain had sunken into her brain, like a sump, slowly grabbing at her thoughts one by one. The darkness had stripped her of her mask, and she is now engulfed in agony and sorrow. She is helpless. The thought of the evil, which she once sought after and accepted, was now an image of terror in her mind.
In conclusion, Lady Macbeth s character gradually disintegrates through a false portrayal of unyielding strength, an unsteady control of her husband and shifting involvement with supernatural powers. Lady Macbeth s deterioration is not only a result of her unwise decisions and actions, many factors played a role in this tragedy of this character s morale: She regarded supernatural forces with such respect and confidence, she tried to get in touch with her own only to become overpowered by their evilness; Her desire for an intimidating personality resulted in the destruction of her morals and in the end, the brutal realization of her true weaknesses; The couple s ambition, although obsessive, is a characteristic of human nature; Her gift of harsh control over Macbeth resulted in a perilous journey for a common goal and the demise of not only herself but also her husband. Possibly as a result of these many factors, Lady Macbeth ends her life and Macbeth is forced to ponder his own existence as well. Macbeth s general outlook of life proved to be a brief meditation on the meaningless of human actions:
Life s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (V.V.27-31)
He realizes everything he strove for in life was in vain; therefore his wife s death seems more like an escape from their worthless life. Perhaps if Macbeth and his lady were happy with who they were, they would not have let power, ambition, authority, and supernatural forces hinder their chances at happiness.