Lady Macbeth Essay, Research Paper
?Lady Macbeth is a powerful and dramatic character, but her death at the end of the play is no surprise to the audience.?
Discuss this statement with close reference to the text.
?Macbeth? is one of the most famous tragedies written in the Elizabethan times by William Shakespeare for King James 1. Set in Scotland, it details the story of man, so desperate for the status of king, that he will do anything to achieve it. As an established ?good and hardy soldier?, and quite content within that role, Macbeth is surprised to find some witches who predict his reign as king.
?All hail Macbeth! who shalt be king hereafter.? (Act 1 scene 3)
On informing his wife, Lady Macbeth, he soon embarks on a killing spree that doesn?t end until both partners? demise. However, Macbeth could not have committed the first few crimes without the help and insistence of his wife. She acts as the fate the witches spoke of to make him king and yet ironically is mainly responsible for aggravating Macbeth?s struggle between morality and ambition. She has a hugely diverse character, and this helps plant the seed of Macbeth?s, and her own, eventual downfall.
Lady Macbeth receives a letter from Macbeth at the beginning of the play, telling her of his experiences with the ?weird sisters?.
?They met me in the day of success: and I have learned by the perfect?st report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge.? (Act1 scene 5)
After she has read the letter, she is determined to make the witches? prophesy come true. She imagines that she has the capability to be a remorseless and determined villain. However in reality this is just an act, and in fact her true self possesses no such traits. This is obvious when she makes a huge effort to get herself into a murderous state of mind, crying out, ?Come you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty!? Lady Macbeth wants to lose her femininity so she can be cold-blooded and commit murder like a man does. However, more than anything, it appears that Lady Macbeth is a very greedy woman, desirous of things that seem very much out of reach.
She also prepares herself to work her husband into a murderous state of mind, as she believes him to be ?too full o? the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way.? Within the first act, she deems herself to be the more authoritative person in this couple. She believes that even if Macbeth is too scared or unwilling to kill the current king, Duncan, she can make him do it if she ?may pour her spirits in thine ear.?
The domineering aspect of Lady Macbeth?s character becomes even more evident when she is told Duncan is coming to stay with her and Macbeth that night because of the victory of the battle that day. When Macbeth arrives home, she advises him to put on an innocent face and leave the rest to her.
?look like th?innocent flower, But be the serpent under?t.? (Act 1 scene 7)
Lady Macbeth is very committed to carrying out the crime. King Duncan greets Lady Macbeth at the gates of Macbeth?s castle, and in a display of hypocrisy, she gives a warm welcome to the man she is planning to murder. In Act 1 Scene 7, Macbeth recites a famous soliloquy, during which he reasons himself out of killing Duncan, and then tells Lady Macbeth by saying that they ?will proceed no further in this business.?
She immediately labels her husband as cowardly as a method to get him to change his mind. She makes the example that it is unmanly to go back on promises which she claims Macbeth has made to kill King Duncan. She says if she were the mother of a baby, she would have the ?nipple pluck?d from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out? had she made a promise to do so. It seems her tactics have worked, as Macbeth is comforted by the fact that even his wife, a woman, is not disheartened by his fears. However, this quote already shows a glimpse of Lady Macbeth?s unstable mind. Such a horrendous description shows Lady Macbeth?s desperateness for Macbeth?s commitment. She intentionally tries to ignore the possible consequences of their act and concentrate on securing her place as queen. She looks to the ?quickest way? to shorten the pair?s path to the throne.
Lady Macbeth at this point in the play is quite certainly unaware of what she is getting herself into, having never contemplated anything of this degree before, let alone carried it out, and so is unequipped to foresee the madness that will later ensue. To her, the death of Duncan is the only thing that must be done, and then the couple will lead a life of luxury. However, the actual deed of the murder is too much for Lady Macbeth to do herself. ?Laying the daggers ready? is all she can manage, even though she claims ?had he not looked like my father as he slept, I had done?t.? She shows here her inability to be as evil as she would have liked.
As Macbeth commits the murder, Lady Macbeth says, ?that which hath made me drunk, hath made me bold.? This quote shows that she may have not felt fully confident with the plot, as she needs alcohol to make her confident with what she?s doing. After Macbeth has done the deed, he is in a trance, and it is left up to Lady Macbeth to place the dagger he used next to the guards and smear them with the kings blood. She then returns to Macbeth and has to clean his hands, saying ?a little water clears us of this deed.? It is terribly ironic that Macbeth, who is throughout the play ?haunted in his sleep? by what they have done, in fact ends up as the over confident one, whilst Lady Macbeth becomes so ridden by guilt, that she commits suicide.
After the king?s murder, Macbeth becomes restless. He begins to get more confident and feels that killing Duncan was worthless, it gave him a ?fruitless crown?, because his line would not continue. The witch?s prophesised that Banquo?s son would be the next ruler, so Macbeth decides to kill both Banquo and his son Fleance. After this next murder of Banquo, Macbeth is extremely guilt ridden, and it is left up to Lady Macbeth to take the control of situations that Macbeth loses. The couple holds a royal banquet. Macbeth leaves the table for a moment and returns to find a bloody Banquo in his seat. It is a hallucination, but Macbeth believes it to be real and becomes very agitated and angry, yelling ?who hath done this?? Lady Macbeth is forced to take over the situation by saying her husband was ?prone? to such outbursts.
This puts a great strain on her, as she was not expecting it. Macbeth?s madness pushes him and his wife further and further apart, which is not at all what she wanted. Lady Macbeth had been very naive toward the situation. She didn?t consider the consequences of her actions, just went ahead with the plan, blinded by her own ambitions. As she becomes more aware of what is happening, and all the killings Macbeth is committing, she becomes deranged from having to hide her true emotions for so long.
After the murder of the Macduff family, she looks to Lady Macduff with some compassion that she had never felt, or at least shown before. She is being stripped of her mask of ?direst cruelty?, and the evil which she one embraced was now an image of terror in her mind. It is now apparent to the audience the power she initially possessed is being lost. She no longer has any control over Macbeth and has become delirious, carrying a lit candle wherever she walks. This behavior is an attempt to try and fend off evil, the darkness, by a man-made light. Similar is at the beginning of the play where Lady Macbeth believed the symbolism of washing her hands with water would clear her of any guilt, and now she thinks that light will destroy the evil she has created. Yet this scene also shows irony, as the crime she believed she had ?washed away? was still ever present in her mind.
By the end of the play, just before the British army attack Macbeth?s castle, Lady Macbeth has dissociated from the horror she feels she has become. Constantly ill and weak, it is no surprise when Seton greets Macbeth with the news, ?The queen, my lord, is dead.?
Showing the completely worthless state she has become, Macbeth replies with only ?She should have died hereafter.?
He no longer cared for her as he had grown overly confident and no longer needed his wife. With nothing left to help Macbeth with, all she had to do with her time was to ponder over what had happened. Her power to begin with was shown to be something she invoked, an artificial sense of control, which in fact she never truly had. As more things happen, she loses her mask of evil. Thus, her death is no surprise. Although the play never actually says she committed suicide, it is fair to assume she did, based on her state of mind at that time.
The murder of Duncan marked the beginning of a downward spiral, where the country would never be able to live normally as long as the Macbeth?s reigned. Evil, once introduced, never goes away until it is destroyed, and Lady Macbeth?s fatal flaw was to underestimate that.