Macbeth Imagery Essay, Research Paper
The play Macbeth is well known for its abundant use of imagery. Imagery is used for numerous reasons such as to convey certain visions to the audience and to give life to the play. One major use of imagery can be seen with the character of Lady Macbeth. Her characterization is strongly dependent on imagery and progresses dramatically with the advancement of the play.
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. After she learns of her husband’s plan to murder Duncan, she realizes that her husband is not man enough to commit the murder. She believes he “…is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness…”(I.v.15), and he would be great except he is “…not without ambition, but without/ The illness should attend it…”(I.v.17-18). Lady Macbeth is clearly presented as the dominant person in the relationship; which, is a reversal of the stereotypical roles of the time. She is presented as one of the strongest characters featuring in the beginning of play.
In Lady Macbeth’s famous “unsex me” speech, we are presented with many images of her wanting to be de-womanized, guiltless, and fearless, like a man. She declares “unsex me here, /And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full/Of direst cruelty!”(I.v.39-41). She no longer wants her womanly emotions and desires for her compassion to be replaced with cruelty. She reinforces her statement by saying “Come to my woman’s breasts, /And take my milk for gall…”(I.v.45-46). This statement insinuates that she wants the milk in her breasts to be replaced with bile. She wants absolutely no connections with womanly compassion; she wants to be as manly as possible. She also presents this in her lines saying “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). Lady Macbeth is saying that she would rather slaughter her nursing child than to back out of a responsibility she said she would go through with.
As the play progresses Lady Macbeth’s deterioration can clearly be sensed. The first sign is when Lady Macbeth goes to murder Duncan, but is unable to because he “…resembled/ My father as he slept…”(II.ii.12-13). This is the first sign of her weakness that we are capable of detecting. After the murder is complete, Lady Macbeth becomes less active in Macbeth’s plan for domination. He begins to plan the murders without even consulting her, and she becomes more passive towards him. She no longer goads him to do tasks; he does them on his own. Soon she comments that “Nought’s had, all’s spent/ Where our desire is got without content: / ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy/ Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy”(III.ii.4-7). We now see Lady Macbeth is regretting her decision to scam Macbeth into murdering Duncan. She is not able to enjoy their new success because she is unable to be sure they were really successful. This guilt and regret she is feeling is exactly what she was trying to prevent.
Towards the end, we notice that Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking, and she is afflicted with hallucinations of guilt as a result of all the murders. She walks around the castle with a candle and rubs her hands as if she were washing them. For a moment she stops and says, “…What, will these hands ne’er be clean…” (V.i.38). She continues on by saying “Here’s the smell of blood still. All the per-/fumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand…” (V.i.43-44). She is obsessing over trying to become wholesome again. She feels that she must cleanse herself of these sins. The darkness has stripped her of her mask of strength, and she is now engulfed in agony and sorrow. She has become helpless. The thought of the evil, which she once sought after and accepted, is now an image of terror in her mind.
The doctor says to the gentlewoman “…Look after her; / Remove from her the means of all annoyance, / And still keep eyes upon her.” (V.i.66-68). The doctor is warning that Lady Macbeth must be observed carefully because she may commit suicide. Lady Macbeth continues to live in her disoriented state, and eventually she takes her on life. One of the strongest characters of the beginning of the play brings about her own destruction that leads to her death.
In summary, 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 ambitions, although obsessive, are 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.