I am going to do an essay on a play called Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare. The play is a tragedy, believed to have been written in 1611-12. The play is about a man named Macbeth whom, at first is a kind, tender man who later gets tempted by three foul witches to commit a murder in order to become king. Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth is thrilled by the prophecies given by the witches and is eager for Macbeth to commit the murder. Macbeth disagrees with his wife greatly about the murder, and later into the play we see how the two exchange views about life and death completely. The character I am going to be studying is Lady Macbeth, and throughout my essay asking the question, is Lady Macbeth fiend-like?
When we first meet Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 5, she is reading a letter that Macbeth has sent her and he tells her of the three witches -whom in Macbeth’s play are present in only four scenes, but Macbeth’s fascination with them inspires much of the play’s action. Macbeth claims the witches have told him he is going to be king, and he wants to share his happiness with his wife. Lady Macbeth then becomes engrossed and hypnotised by the way he talks about the witches. “Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it” (1.5 3-7) Macbeth will let chance and fate have its own way and he will not speed the procedure up, as he is too much of a warm-hearted loving man to commit such a crime as murdering the king. But Lady Macbeth does not see this way as she sees an opportunity to be Queen, and believes that Macbeth can do this for her.
Here we see that Lady Macbeth is so desperate to have power, she wants to manipulate measures in order to accomplish her objectives. She is willing to murder the King in order to take the crown. Is she a loving wife- or is she greedy for her own ambition? I think in this scene we can see Lady Macbeth is greedy for her own ambition. She doesn’t care how Macbeth feels, nor if he truly desires to become king. She wants it all for herself. Lady Macbeth has the ability to overrule all her husband’s reserves and manipulate him into carrying out these murderous acts. She is clearly in charge of the relationship. “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. Make thick my blood” (1.5 31-33) This means she will stop at nothing to commit the crime. She seems ghastly, and most definitely fiend-like.
In the Scene that follows, we see that Lady Macbeth is very strong willed, and now takes on the role of a perfect hostess, in contrast to the previous scene where she talks of murderous acts. She is able to control and hide her emotions very well. “Your majesty loads our house. For those of old, And the late dignities heaped up to them, We rest your hermits” (1.6 18-20) She is pleasant and mellow, someone you’d like to be around. In scene 7 of this act, Macbeth now contemplates the deed that he is about to perform. He states that he no longer intends to kill Duncan and Lady Macbeth, outraged, calls him a coward and mocks Macbeth’s masculinity and the contrast of gender roles in Macbeth is highlighted when she tells him how he needs to be more like her. “Was the hope drunk Where in you dressed yourself?
Hath it slept since?” (1.7 36) He is aware of the powerful reasons for murdering the king, but is not sure he can motivate himself to do such a deed. She shows a lot of ferocity and wickedness here, and continues persuading him to kill Duncan to show her how much he loves her and a coward if he backs out. Lady Macbeth is undoubtedly field-like in this scene. Her passionate outbursts defeat Macbeth, who seems to be somewhat frightened of his wife. Lady Macbeth plans to drug King Duncan’s two attendants, so they won’t be able to protect him, and then she can blame the death on them. Macbeth replies with approval.
Act 2 scene 2 is perhaps the most significant scene in the whole play. The murder of King Duncan takes place. It is essential to the plot because the scene develops the character of Macbeth and how his character contrasts Lady Macbeth and shows the effect the murder has put on her likewise. This scene takes place at night, where the darkness represents what is unnatural and evil. Everything that happens within the play seems to revolve around this particular scene. She says that she would have murdered Duncan herself; however he looked too much like her father. We now get a glimpse at Lady Macbeth’s softer side. Perhaps she is not such a heartless sinister woman after all. When Macbeth returns to his wife they are both highly charged with nerves and excitement.
They do not speak in sentences, but in short once word answers unlike the other scenes. Their speech has shifted and tells the audience all is not well. His hands are dripping in blood and he is holding the daggers, which would heighten the drama. Macbeth describes the horrors of the murder and cannot believe he has committed such an evil crime, he says “I am afraid to think what I have done” (2.2 51) Lady Macbeth takes the daggers, and says “My hands are of your colour, but I shame To wear a heart so white… A little water clears us of this deed” (2.2 64-65) This means once they wash their hands the guilt will be over and it was so easy. As she leaves, Macbeth hears a mysterious knocking. The menacing sound frightens him, and he asks ‘Neptune’s ocean’ to wash the blood from his hands. His comment contrasts Lady Macbeth’s greatly.
Lady Macbeth enters the room, faking the expression of haven just been awoken. Everyone is frantic shouting murder when it is next announced that the two servants have also been killed. The next part in this scene is controversial, as Lady Macbeth faints when she hears the news. Is she so genuinely shocked and wondering if she has created a man very sinister and evil? Or is she very clever and pretends to be horrified by the news and fainted to bring the attention away from that fact? Shakespeare leaves us with these unanswered questions.
In Act 3 scene 2 Lady Macbeth is alone, and expresses her despair. There seems to be no end to her desire for power and she feels uncertain and restless. Perhaps being Queen wasn’t all she hoped it was. Macbeth enters looking upset and she orders him to stop over thinking the crimes they have committed. He feels that by killing Duncan, his mission is not yet complete as there are still threats to the throne that must be eliminated, by this meaning Duncan’s two sons. We can see he is slowly going insane. He is living his life entangled in these thoughts and reminders of what he’s done. Lady Macbeth now contrasts her previous self, by saying “’Tis safer to be that which we destroy Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy…
Why do you keep alone, Of sorriest fancies your companions making, Using those thoughts which should indeed have died With them they think on” (3.2 8-13) By this she is saying it is better to be the person murdered than to be the killer and be tormented with anxiety, and that those thoughts should have died when he killed the men he was thinking about. She asks Macbeth why he is keeping himself distant, with only his sad thoughts to keep him company. Here, we see Lady Macbeth shows tenderness in her concern for his tormented state. We see she genuinely cares for her husband. She certainly does not seem fiend-like in this act. Otherwise, she does not seem to be bothered by a guilty conscience.
At the banquet, Macbeth erupts, claiming he can see the ghost of Banquo who sits in his seat -with his face covered in blood. The guest’s flabbergasted and confused, jump from their seats. But cunning Lady Macbeth is already on the ball. “Sit, worthy friends. My lord is often thus And hath been from his youth. Pray you, keep seat. The fit is momentary; upon a thought He will again be well” (3.4 56-59) Like in Act 1 Scene 6, she knows exactly how to act in front of guests. She knows how to hide her state of mind and emotions. She is saying Macbeth is unwell, and this is no unusual phenomenon. She then speaks to Macbeth, losing her patience with him and questioning his manhood. She urges him to snap out of his trance. The ghost disappears, and Macbeth recovers, apologising to his guests. Later when the visitors leave, Lady Macbeth is tender with him. I do somewhat feel sorry for Lady Macbeth, and she can see Macbeths mental state now deteriorating and perhaps she feels she has inflicted it herself.
Lady Macbeth is not seen in Act 4. This is significant because it shows Macbeth is completely functioning on his own. In the first act, Lady Macbeth had to convince Macbeth to commit the murder. Treachery now comes easily to him.
In act 5, we see that Lady Macbeth has gone insane. In the darkness in the king’s palace, a doctor and the gentlewoman discuss Lady Macbeth’s bizarre habit of sleepwalking. All of a sudden, Lady Macbeth enters in a trance with a candle in her hand. She is muttering down at her hands as she twists and clamps her hands together. “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t… Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him” (5.1 25-28) She seems to see a spot of blood on her hands and claims that nothing will ever wash it off. Is the murder playing on her conscious? When she says “Yet here’s a spot” she means nothing she ever does or how many times she will wash her hands will ever let her disregard the murder. She departs as the doctor and gentlewoman marvel over her madness.
In Act 5 Scene 5, a woman’s cry is heard in the castle, and Seyton appears to announce that the queen is dead. Macbeth speaks emotionlessly about his wife and does not remorse whatsoever. Macbeth’s attitude towards death has changed completely; the two characters have swapped views. At the end she chooses death because she can no longer bear the torments of her guilt. Perhaps Lady Macbeth does have a good heart and intentions after all… Lady Macbeth committing suicide shows us she does have a good heart and intentions. She does not appear fiend-like, but very caring. In other circumstances, she would have been a good queen. The thought and constant torment of having committing the murder overwhelms her. She cannot live her life like she typically would have, thus giving us a false sense of what her true personality is really like.