Macbeth-The Transformation Of Lady Macbeth Essay, Research Paper
Due to the ruthless and murderous actions taken in order to fulfill her yearning for power, Lady MacBeth, of Shakespeare s tragedy, MacBeth, suffers from emotional turmoil. At 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.
After receiving the letter from her husband about the predictions of the three witches, Lady MacBeth dedicates herself to helping MacBeth become king. The witches had told MacBeth that he would soon become the Thane of Cawdor, and eventually the King of Scotland. When she learns that Duncan would be spending the night at their castle, she immediately decides to kill him. She mentions that her husband was not ruthless by nature, and that even if he wanted something so badly, he would not cheat to get it. She sees this as a character flaw. However, Lady MacBeth does not have that problem. In fact, her goal is to get MacBeth to feel as she does. She does so by questioning his manhood in saying:
Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valor Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,” Like the poor cat i’ th’ adage? (I, vii, 40-46).
“She feels in an instant that everything is at stake, and ignoring the point, overwhelms him with indignant and contemptuous personal reproach.” (Bradley, 81.) She seems to welcome the darkness into her when she says, “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts / Unsex me here, and fill me, from crown to toe / Top-full of direst cruelty.” (I, v, 44). Lady MacBeth takes control of the situation involving Duncan by pushing her husband into wanting to commit the murder. The plan is derived to kill the king in his sleep and blame it on his servants. Although MacBeth does not condone this activity outright, he does not condemn it either. And, so it is settled, MacBeth is to kill Duncan. Excited by the part she takes in the plot, Lady MacBeth waits anxiously as her husband kills the king. Lady MacBeth cannot commit the murder herself because of a slight resemblance Duncan has to her father. This trace of emotion was important because it shows a humane side to the seemingly cold-hearted Lady MacBeth.
As more and more obstacles come in the way of complete control of Scotland, more and more murders take place. As time goes on, MacBeth no longer has resistance towards killing anyone in his way. While his confidence soars, that of his wife decreases. Banquo, although loyal friend to MacBeth, poses a threat to the throne. The witches say to Banquo, “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.” (I, iii, 67). This means that the children of Banquo will one day become royalty. Aside from this, Banquo is also suspicious of the death of Duncan. In order to avert his fate, MacBeth decides to eliminate the problem at the source: Banquo. In order to accomplish this, MacBeth sends men after him. His murder is arranged. Also, the witches had warned Macbeth to beware of MacDuff, so he too was to die. Unlike the plot against Duncan, Lady MacBeth does not take part in these plans. She tries to get through to her husband by scolding him for not letting her in on his secrets. “Why do you keep alone, / Of sorriest fancies your companion making?” (III, ii, 8 – 9). MacBeth just ignores these questions. What she is really worried about is the way her husband is acting. She urges him to be practical, Things without all remedy / Should be without regard: what s done is done (III, ii, 11 12). In the beginning, MacBeth rushes home to tell his wife of the predictions of the three witches, and everything they do, they do together. Lady MacBeth does not know why her husband was now keeping so much to himself. By this time, Lady MacBeth is feeling that she is losing the control she once had. She no longer has the upper hand to her husband. His strength and vindictiveness seems to be draining directly from her.
The next obstacle, according to the predictions, is MacDuff. He is already suspicious of the deaths and the role MacBeth may have played in them. Upon his second visit with the witches, MacBeth hears, Beware MacDuff, / Beware Thane of fife. (V, i, 171). It is learned that MacDuff, who is now acknowledged as MacBeth s enemy, has gone to England. He wants help from the King s army to overthrow MacBeth. At this time, MacBeth s men are going to MacDuff s castle. The massacre of the MacDuff family marks an all new low for MacBeth: the killing of women and children. Lady MacBeth sees this as one big nightmare that she can not awaken from. Sleepwalking, she relives the murders she and her husband have committed. She speaks, as if to her husband, What need we fear who knows it, / When none can call our power accompt? (V, iii, 40). Fear and guilt torture her. While sleepwalking, she continuously wipes off her hands, trying to rid them of Banquo s blood. She tries to make her hands clear of the deed. This insight into Lady MacBeth’s thoughts is the last time she is seen alive in the play. The final thread is broken, and she is forced to end her suffering with suicide.
The journey Lady MacBeth takes throughout this play leads to her death. She feels overwhelmed by all that is happening, both physically and mentally. The merciless acts taken by MacBeth pose problems that are too much for her to handle. In the end, the only solution she sees is to take her own life. The guilt that has been set upon her by her husband sprung from convincing him to kill. In all 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 MacBeth becomes less dependent on his wife, she loses more control. She loses control of her husband, but mostly, of herself.
Library – Bradley, A. C. Critical Essay.
London: Macmillian, 1904
William Shakespeare, MacBeth, (Four Tragedies)
New York: Bantam, 1988