Lady Macbeth: The Real Power Behind The Throne Essay, Research Paper
Lady Macbeth: The Real Power Behind the Throne
Power is a theme used by Shakespeare throughout the play Macbeth. The plot involves Macbeth trying to gain more power. Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth to kill Duncan so that he will become king in his place. Macbeth also is persuaded to kill anyone who threatens his chances of being king, including Banquo. Power is used by certain characters in the play to influence others. One such character is Lady Macbeth. In the beginning of the play, she is a strong-willed character. She takes on the role of a dominant male. She has great influence over her husband, who appears to be weaker than she is. It is her influence that convinces Macbeth to murder Duncan. Lady Macbeth is the dominant partner at the beginning of the play, she persuades Macbeth to achieve his goal, and she plans the murder of Duncan.
Lady Macbeth takes the role of the dominant partner in the beginning of the play, by acting as the real power behind the throne. For example, it is easily recognized that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are opposite in many ways (Scott 236). He is weak, indecisive, and takes on the traditional female role of the marriage; she is strong, decisive, and takes on the traditional male role. One place in the play where Macbeth’s character is shown is Act I, Scene 5, Lines 15-17. She says, “Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be / What thou art promis’d : yet do I fear thy nature / Is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.” This is just after Lady Macbeth receives the letter from Macbeth. It is also important to notice that when Macbeth’s first thoughts of killing Duncan appear, he is scared. After he commits the murder, Macbeth says, “To know my deed, ‘twere best not know myself ” ( 2. 2. 72 ). Knowing that he has committed such a vile act makes him uncomfortable. It will be difficult to act innocent and deal with his guilt.
Lady Macbeth thinks that being gentle is a weakness. When she says Macbeth is “too full o’ the milk of human kindness,” she means that he is too gentle and weak to murder Duncan (Scott 37). For example, in Act II, Scene 2, Lines 57-74, Macbeth has trouble dealing with the guilt of committing such a crime. He immediately wishes Duncan were alive again. He is also paranoid that someone will discover he has committed the murder. He is afraid that his guilt will be a stain on him, like the blood ( 2. 2. 50-60). Although the blood may be washed away, his sins will not. Macbeth becomes irrational in this scene. He is busy worrying about his guilty conscience when there are things to be done. Lady Macbeth on the other hand, is calm and rational. She tells Macbeth to wash his hands and change his clothes so people will not discover his crime. Her character is shown in Act I, Scene 5, Lines 38-54. This is just after Lady Macbeth gets the letter, and just before Duncan arrives to the castle. When she says, “unsex me here,” Lady Macbeth is asking to be more masculine (Scott 237). She wants to be stronger and more cruel so that she can murder Duncan herself. She is strong-willed because it takes courage to think of killing someone. In Act I, Scene 5, Lines 60-73, Lady Macbeth’s characteristics are revealed again. This is when Macbeth arrives home from battle. Lady Macbeth is instructing Macbeth on how to act. She knows he is not a good actor, and she wants no one to get suspicious of their plans. She says, “put this night’s great business into my dispatch and leave all the rest to me” ( 1. 5. 65-70 ). She is indicating that she is taking control.
In addition to being in control, Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to achieve his goal of being king. He want more than anything to be king, but is unsure whether he can go through with the murder. Macbeth changes his mind several times, until Lady Macbeth finally convinces him to do it. First, Macbeth decides against the murder. He says, “First, I am his kinsman, and his subject / Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, / Who should against his murderer shut the door” ( 1. 7. 10-12). Macbeth does not think he should kill Duncan because he is his cousin, subject, and host. He is also a good king who does not deserve to be murdered. Just when Macbeth decides to not go through with the murder, Lady Macbeth enters the room. She uses taunts to convince Macbeth to murder Duncan: “Wouldst thou have that / Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life / And live a coward in the own esteem? When you durst do it, then you were a man; / And to be more that what you were, you would / Be so much more the man” ( 1. 7. 41-46 ). She is calling her husband a coward and says he is not a man. She is hoping that by insulting Macbeth she can make him kill Duncan.
Lady Macbeth’s last attempt to gain power is by organizing the murder of Duncan. All that Macbeth knows is that he is going to kill Duncan. He does not know exactly how to go about it. Lady Macbeth takes it upon herself to organize everything. In Act II, Scene 2, Lines 1-13. Lady Macbeth has prepared for the murder: “That which hath made the drunk hath made me bold. The doors are open: and the surfeited grooms do mock their charge with snores. I have drugg’d their possets and laid their daggers ready.” Lady Macbeth gets the guards drunk and sets their daggers out where Macbeth can find them. All Macbeth has to do is take the dagger and stab Duncan. Lady Macbeth orders Macbeth, “Go get some water, / And was this filthy witness from your hand. / Why did you bring these daggers from the place? / They must lie there: go carry them. And smear / The sleepy grooms with blood ( 2. 2. 44-57). Lady Macbeth is ordering Macbeth like a child. He does not think to wash his hands or leave the daggers in the room. Lady Macbeth, who is clam and practical, must remind him to do these things.
Throughout Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth proves herself to be the real power behind the throne. She is the dominant partner at the beginning of the play, she persuades Macbeth to achieve his goal, and she plans the murder of Duncan. Lady Macbeth defines her character to be strong-willed and decisive. She also seems to play the traditional male role in the marriage. For these reasons, Lady Macbeth is the real power behind the throne.