Lady Macbeth Essay Research Paper Sec 4A27

Lady Macbeth Essay, Research Paper Sec. 4-A 27 February 2001 LADY MACBETH’S DOWNFALL William Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been a theatrical favorite since Elizabethan times. Its timeless themes of ambition, fate, violence, and insanity collaborate to produce a captivating plot. The audience traces the disintegration of a tragic hero and his willful wife.

Lady Macbeth Essay, Research Paper

Sec. 4-A

27 February 2001

LADY MACBETH’S DOWNFALL

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been a theatrical favorite since Elizabethan times. Its timeless themes of ambition, fate, violence, and insanity collaborate to produce a captivating plot. The audience traces the disintegration of a tragic hero and his willful wife. Lady Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most forcefully drawn female characters, plays an important role in the play Macbeth. She has a profound influence over the action of the play, and her character accentuates many of the themes. It seems evident that Lady Macbeth is motivated by repressed emotional complexes which lead to her insanity.

Lady Macbeth is introduced as she reads a letter from her husband regarding his new title and the prophesies of the three weird sisters. Macbeth is the first to contemplate killing King Duncan, but the notion immediately enters his desirous wife’s mind as well. Macbeth is the medium through which the train of evil extends to his calculating companion. Once this evil is exposed, Lady Macbeth’s strong and dominating ambition to become queen is born (Jameson 192).

There are two reasons why Lady Macbeth is ambitious. Her first motive, ardent affection for her husband, reveals a touch of womanhood. Because she loves Macbeth, she has an earnest desire to help him attain the throne. Upon reading his letter, the devoted Lady Macbeth does not once refer to herself; she thinks only of Macbeth (Jameson 191-2). On a deeper level, Lady Macbeth’s ambition also stems from a sublimation of a repressed desire for children. This sublimation is based upon the memory of her long since dead child. The unconscious battle that this memory produces plagues Lady Macbeth’s mind and will be responsible for all of her further actions in the play (Coriat 219).

As Lady Macbeth ponders and schemes the “taking off” of the king, she convinces herself that she is brave (Freud 223). She callously asks for her womanliness to be sacrificed so that she will be able to carry out her murderous intentions:

Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

………………………………………………………….

Come to my woman’s breasts,

And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers. (I. v. 39-40, 46-7)

In the harsh words of Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy, she substitutes ambition for her repressed sexual complex. Her strong-willed speech makes her appear to be very courageous when, in actuality, she is suppressing her genuine underlying cowardice (Coriat 219). Consciously, she believes in her volition; however, her unconscious complexes are the factors that determine her behavior (Coriat 222).

As the time of the murder approaches, Macbeth begins to waver about implementing the plan. The domineering Lady Macbeth goads him on to his damnation as she calls him a coward and shows that she is fearless (Jameson 191). Her horrific words convince Macbeth that he must be a man and keep his word:

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)

Here Lady Macbeth’s repressed sexual complex for a child is sublimated into ambition and strength. On the surface, she steels herself against emotional harm, but subconsciously, this abhorrent woman is deeply sorrowful about her childlessness (Coriat 220).

As Lady Macbeth waits for Macbeth to return from the cataclysmic deed, she divulges that she is not as daring as she appears by saying: “That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold; / What hath quenched them hath given me fire” (II. ii. 1-2). Her cowardice is illustrated by her need for alcohol to enable her to act out her wishes. That pusillanimity resurfaces when Lady Macbeth tells her husband: “Had he not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done ’t” (II. ii. 12-13). She uses her father as an excuse for her inaction (Coriat 221).

The entire murderous experience fills Lady Macbeth with intense fear and horror. The silence, whispering, and dangerous situation that is broken by the knocking at the gate transforms Lady Macbeth’s delusive bravery into consummate terror. She also realizes that the murder of Duncan is rendered even more evil because it violates claims of kindred and hospitality (Jameson 191). She chooses to repress the secret of the murder and the horror generated by the experience (Coriat 220). She tells her husband: “These deeds must not be thought / After these ways; so, it will make us mad” (II. ii. 33-34). This repression will eventually drive her to hysterical dissociation.

Now that the regicide has been executed, Lady Macbeth has time to brood over her actions. She becomes consumed with thoughts of her nefarious deed. She loses almost all of her ambition and becomes utterly depressed. It is apparent that Lady Macbeth knows her life will never be pleasant again. She states:

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)

These words expose her melancholy and foreshadow her denouement (Coriat 221).

The relationship between Macbeth and his despairing wife has disintegrated. He has stopped confiding in her about his plans. From this point on, Lady Macbeth takes no part in the future violence that Macbeth inflicts (Jameson 192). In their dialogue prior to the banquet, Lady Macbeth inquires about Macbeth’s plans, but he avoids answering her question by telling her to: “Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, / Till thou applaud the deed” (III. ii. 45-46). Macbeth’s lack of confidence in his ill-fated wife deepens her anguish (Jameson 193).

Nevertheless, Lady Macbeth expends one last effort to save their dire situation. In the banquet scene that follows, the proud woman attempts to control the chaos her husband creates when he has hallucinations of Banquo’s ghost. She distracts the guests and tries to talk sense into Macbeth. She scolds him by saying: “You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting, / With most admired disorder” (III. iv. 110-111). When she sees no hope for saving the night, Lady Macbeth does not hesitate to find a pretext for dismissing the guests. This is her final act of control and sanity (Freud 223).

The sleep-walking scene marks Lady Macbeth’s final appearance in the play. This scene evinces the logical evolution of Lady Macbeth’s previous emotional experiences and her suppressed complexes of childlessness and of Duncan’s murder (Coriat 219). It is her complete collapse after fervidly striving to attain her aim (Freud 223).

By this time, Lady Macbeth has developed two distinct personalities. These personas appear and disappear according to the fluctuation of her mental condition (Coriat 222). Her normal, awakened state includes her censorship, repression, assumed bravery, mastery of situations, and fearlessness. It is also characterized by the emotionless cruelty she adamantly counsels to Macbeth. This personality is contrasted by her somnambulistic state. In this condition, Lady Macbeth exhibits free expression, innate cowardice, pity, and remorse (Coriat 219-220). It is apparent that her personality has dissociated because of her repressed complexes (Coriat 222).

The repressed complexes break through during Lady Macbeth’s sleep-walking scene. During this scene, she recalls every macabre event with detailed accuracy. According to Isador H. Coriat, the first complex that emerges relates to Duncan’s murder. The doctor and gentlewoman watch as the penitent Lady Macbeth rubs her hands saying:

Out, damned spot!

Out, I say! One: two: why, then ‘tis time to do ‘t. Hell

is murky. Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What

need we fear who knows it, when none can call our

pow’r to accompt? Yet who would have thought the old

man to have had so much blood in him?” (V. i. 33-38)

This shows that the murder of Duncan tortures Lady Macbeth’s

conscience.

The second exposed complex pertains to Banquo’s murder in which Lady Macbeth discloses her knowledge of that crime. The third complex refers to the senseless murder of Lady Macduff and Macduff’s children (221). In her sleep, Lady Macbeth asks: “The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now?” (V. i. 40-41). In the somnambulistic state, a horrid panorama of her crimes passes before her. This finally drives her to insanity (Coriat 221-222).

The sleep-walking scene gives a glimpse into Lady Macbeth’s inward hell in a way that her waking state never could (Jameson 193). This climax of her journey leaves her in a state of complete deterioration. The final step of mental destruction takes Lady Macbeth to her death (Coriat 222).

Lady Macbeth’s death is reported to Macbeth by Seyton. Macbeth, consumed with thoughts of his impending battle, has few words for her: “She should have died hereafter; / There would have been a time for such a word” (V. v. 17-18). Macbeth’s brief epitaph indicates how worthless Lady Macbeth’s existence has become. Malcolm’s speech at the end of the play discloses that the “fiendlike queen” took her own life. The method of her suicide is left a mystery. This simple ending to a tormenting downfall reiterates what is left of Lady Macbeth’s corrupt life (Coriat 222).

Repressed emotional complexes bring about Lady Macbeth’s downfall. These complexes are the source of her motivation, and as the play progresses,

they continue to control her behavior. Despite accomplishing her initial goal, Lady Macbeth sinks into depression. Her waterloo becomes a dreary, solitary journey that culminates in her insanity. The tragedy of Lady Macbeth’s disintegration enhances the masterpiece, Macbeth.

Coriat, Isador H. “The Hysteria of Lady Macbeth.” Shakespearean Criticism. Eds. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Mark W. Scott. 12 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. 3: 219-223.

Freud, Sigmund. “Some Character-Types Met with in Psycho-Analytic Work.” Shakespearean Criticism. Eds. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Mark W. Scott. 12 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. 3: 223-225.

Jameson, Anna Brownell. “Lady Macbeth.” Shakespearean Criticism. Eds. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Mark W. Scott. 12 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. 3: 191-193.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. English and Western Literature. Ed. George Kearnes. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984. 112-187.

Sec. 4-A

27 February 2001

LADY MACBETH’S DOWNFALL

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been a theatrical favorite since Elizabethan times. Its timeless themes of ambition, fate, violence, and insanity collaborate to produce a captivating plot. The audience traces the disintegration of a tragic hero and his willful wife. Lady Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most forcefully drawn female characters, plays an important role in the play Macbeth. She has a profound influence over the action of the play, and her character accentuates many of the themes. It seems evident that Lady Macbeth is motivated by repressed emotional complexes which lead to her insanity.

Lady Macbeth is introduced as she reads a letter from her husband regarding his new title and the prophesies of the three weird sisters. Macbeth is the first to contemplate killing King Duncan, but the notion immediately enters his desirous wife’s mind as well. Macbeth is the medium through which the train of evil extends to his calculating companion. Once this evil is exposed, Lady Macbeth’s strong and dominating ambition to become queen is born (Jameson 192).

There are two reasons why Lady Macbeth is ambitious. Her first motive, ardent affection for her husband, reveals a touch of womanhood. Because she loves Macbeth, she has an earnest desire to help him attain the throne. Upon reading his letter, the devoted Lady Macbeth does not once refer to herself; she thinks only of Macbeth (Jameson 191-2). On a deeper level, Lady Macbeth’s ambition also stems from a sublimation of a repressed desire for children. This sublimation is based upon the memory of her long since dead child. The unconscious battle that this memory produces plagues Lady Macbeth’s mind and will be responsible for all of her further actions in the play (Coriat 219).

As Lady Macbeth ponders and schemes the “taking off” of the king, she convinces herself that she is brave (Freud 223). She callously asks for her womanliness to be sacrificed so that she will be able to carry out her murderous intentions:

Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

………………………………………………………….

Come to my woman’s breasts,

And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers. (I. v. 39-40, 46-7)

In the harsh words of Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy, she substitutes ambition for her repressed sexual complex. Her strong-willed speech makes her appear to be very courageous when, in actuality, she is suppressing her genuine underlying cowardice (Coriat 219). Consciously, she believes in her volition; however, her unconscious complexes are the factors that determine her behavior (Coriat 222).

As the time of the murder approaches, Macbeth begins to waver about implementing the plan. The domineering Lady Macbeth goads him on to his damnation as she calls him a coward and shows that she is fearless (Jameson 191). Her horrific words convince Macbeth that he must be a man and keep his word:

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)

Here Lady Macbeth’s repressed sexual complex for a child is sublimated into ambition and strength. On the surface, she steels herself against emotional harm, but subconsciously, this abhorrent woman is deeply sorrowful about her childlessness (Coriat 220).

As Lady Macbeth waits for Macbeth to return from the cataclysmic deed, she divulges that she is not as daring as she appears by saying: “That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold; / What hath quenched them hath given me fire” (II. ii. 1-2). Her cowardice is illustrated by her need for alcohol to enable her to act out her wishes. That pusillanimity resurfaces when Lady Macbeth tells her husband: “Had he not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done ’t” (II. ii. 12-13). She uses her father as an excuse for her inaction (Coriat 221).

The entire murderous experience fills Lady Macbeth with intense fear and horror. The silence, whispering, and dangerous situation that is broken by the knocking at the gate transforms Lady Macbeth’s delusive bravery into consummate terror. She also realizes that the murder of Duncan is rendered even more evil because it violates claims of kindred and hospitality (Jameson 191). She chooses to repress the secret of the murder and the horror generated by the experience (Coriat 220). She tells her husband: “These deeds must not be thought / After these ways; so, it will make us mad” (II. ii. 33-34). This repression will eventually drive her to hysterical dissociation.

Now that the regicide has been executed, Lady Macbeth has time to brood over her actions. She becomes consumed with thoughts of her nefarious deed. She loses almost all of her ambition and becomes utterly depressed. It is apparent that Lady Macbeth knows her life will never be pleasant again. She states:

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)

These words expose her melancholy and foreshadow her denouement (Coriat 221).

The relationship between Macbeth and his despairing wife has disintegrated. He has stopped confiding in her about his plans. From this point on, Lady Macbeth takes no part in the future violence that Macbeth inflicts (Jameson 192). In their dialogue prior to the banquet, Lady Macbeth inquires about Macbeth’s plans, but he avoids answering her question by telling her to: “Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, / Till thou applaud the deed” (III. ii. 45-46). Macbeth’s lack of confidence in his ill-fated wife deepens her anguish (Jameson 193).

Nevertheless, Lady Macbeth expends one last effort to save their dire situation. In the banquet scene that follows, the proud woman attempts to control the chaos her husband creates when he has hallucinations of Banquo’s ghost. She distracts the guests and tries to talk sense into Macbeth. She scolds him by saying: “You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting, / With most admired disorder” (III. iv. 110-111). When she sees no hope for saving the night, Lady Macbeth does not hesitate to find a pretext for dismissing the guests. This is her final act of control and sanity (Freud 223).

The sleep-walking scene marks Lady Macbeth’s final appearance in the play. This scene evinces the logical evolution of Lady Macbeth’s previous emotional experiences and her suppressed complexes of childlessness and of Duncan’s murder (Coriat 219). It is her complete collapse after fervidly striving to attain her aim (Freud 223).

By this time, Lady Macbeth has developed two distinct personalities. These personas appear and disappear according to the fluctuation of her mental condition (Coriat 222). Her normal, awakened state includes her censorship, repression, assumed bravery, mastery of situations, and fearlessness. It is also characterized by the emotionless cruelty she adamantly counsels to Macbeth. This personality is contrasted by her somnambulistic state. In this condition, Lady Macbeth exhibits free expression, innate cowardice, pity, and remorse (Coriat 219-220). It is apparent that her personality has dissociated because of her repressed complexes (Coriat 222).

The repressed complexes break through during Lady Macbeth’s sleep-walking scene. During this scene, she recalls every macabre event with detailed accuracy. According to Isador H. Coriat, the first complex that emerges relates to Duncan’s murder. The doctor and gentlewoman watch as the penitent Lady Macbeth rubs her hands saying:

Out, damned spot!

Out, I say! One: two: why, then ‘tis time to do ‘t. Hell

is murky. Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What

need we fear who knows it, when none can call our

pow’r to accompt? Yet who would have thought the old

man to have had so much blood in him?” (V. i. 33-38)

This shows that the murder of Duncan tortures Lady Macbeth’s

conscience.

The second exposed complex pertains to Banquo’s murder in which Lady Macbeth discloses her knowledge of that crime. The third complex refers to the senseless murder of Lady Macduff and Macduff’s children (221). In her sleep, Lady Macbeth asks: “The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now?” (V. i. 40-41). In the somnambulistic state, a horrid panorama of her crimes passes before her. This finally drives her to insanity (Coriat 221-222).

The sleep-walking scene gives a glimpse into Lady Macbeth’s inward hell in a way that her waking state never could (Jameson 193). This climax of her journey leaves her in a state of complete deterioration. The final step of mental destruction takes Lady Macbeth to her death (Coriat 222).

Lady Macbeth’s death is reported to Macbeth by Seyton. Macbeth, consumed with thoughts of his impending battle, has few words for her: “She should have died hereafter; / There would have been a time for such a word” (V. v. 17-18). Macbeth’s brief epitaph indicates how worthless Lady Macbeth’s existence has become. Malcolm’s speech at the end of the play discloses that the “fiendlike queen” took her own life. The method of her suicide is left a mystery. This simple ending to a tormenting downfall reiterates what is left of Lady Macbeth’s corrupt life (Coriat 222).

Repressed emotional complexes bring about Lady Macbeth’s downfall. These complexes are the source of her motivation, and as the play progresses,

they continue to control her behavior. Despite accomplishing her initial goal, Lady Macbeth sinks into depression. Her waterloo becomes a dreary, solitary journey that culminates in her insanity. The tragedy of Lady Macbeth’s disintegration enhances the masterpiece, Macbeth.

Works Cited

Coriat, Isador H. “The Hysteria of Lady Macbeth.” Shakespearean Criticism. Eds. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Mark W. Scott. 12 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. 3: 219-223.

Freud, Sigmund. “Some Character-Types Met with in Psycho-Analytic Work.” Shakespearean Criticism. Eds. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Mark W. Scott. 12 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. 3: 223-225.

Jameson, Anna Brownell. “Lady Macbeth.” Shakespearean Criticism. Eds. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Mark W. Scott. 12 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. 3: 191-193.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. English and Western Literature. Ed. George Kearnes. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984. 112-187.