How does Shakespeare show the decline in Lady Macbeth during the course of the play? Essay Sample
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- Word count: 1,940
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- Category: drama
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Introduction of TOPIC
When we first see Lady Macbeth the audience can see her as a strong, independent lady and yet a loving and devoted wife. As the play continues the audience can see her gradual deterioration and the separation between her and her husband until she is seen to lose her mind and become very troubled, so much so that she ends her own life.
The first scene, in which Lady Macbeth appears in, starts with her reading a letter from her husband, Macbeth. This letter informs Lady Macbeth of the witch’s prophecies for MacBeth’s future. The audience can see the closeness and love between the two people by MacBeth’s letter; he calls her, ‘My dearest partner of greatness’
Once Lady Macbeth has finished reading the letter she fully understands what needs to be done for him to become King; ‘Thus thou must do, if thou have it’
Lady Macbeth knows that Duncan is an obstacle they have to overcome and feels that the death of Duncan would help her husband. She also realises that Macbeth is too kind to kill. Showing the audience how well the couple know about each other. She thinks that he is too ‘full o’ the milk of human kindness.’
Lady Macbeth reads that Duncan has plans to stay in the castle that night and is overwhelmed with joy in hearing this, she says, ‘He brings good news’
She then instantly taps into the spirit world where she calls upon the evil spirits to help stop her feeling any remorse or shame in the near future; ‘That no compuctious visitings of nature…’
She goes on to talk about taking away something natural, her milk and replacing it with something unnatural such as bitter poison. The use of alliteration on the ‘m’ helps make the words sound more effective and evil to the audience:
‘And take my milk for gal, you murdering
The audience sees the affection and love Lady Macbeth has for her husband when she greets him when he returns home:
‘Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!
Greater than both, by all-hail, hereafter!’
She asks him when Duncan plans to leave and she replies; ‘Tomorrow, as he purposes.’
This line shows that Macbeth is on the same tracks as his wife even though they haven’t actually spoke of murder before this point. The audience see from this how their brains simarily think and act.
The scene ends with Lady Macbeth encouraging Macbeth on how to cover up his guilty conscience:
‘…Look like the innocent
But be the serpent under’t…’
The audience can see from this that Lady Macbeth is always one step ahead.
The first sign of fragility of Lady Macbeth comes across to the audience in this next scene in which Lady Macbeth awaits for the reappearance of her husband after the killing of Duncan.
The audience see her waiting nervously and anxiously which is shown by her broken up speech and short sentences; ‘Hark! Peace!’
The audience can also see that Lady Macbeth needed too drink alcohol in order to give her the courage to carry on; ‘ That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold,’ this is another sign to the beginning of her weakness.
Lady Macbeth then goes onto say that; ‘Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had don’t.’ The audience can see the slight irony in this as this line shows a normal human feeling although she had called the evil spirits upon herself to take them away.
Lady Macbeth yet again puts a brave face on for her husband when he re-enters the room and takes charge of the situation again, telling him what to do next; ‘A little water clears us of this deed.’
As the play progresses the physical separation of Lady MacBeth and her husban
d becomes even more visible to the audience. Lady MacBeth begins
Instead she feels they have both given everything they can and gained nothing in return: ‘Nought’s had, all’s spent’
The audience can see from this scene that Lady MacBeth’s worries are beginning to overwhelm her. The use of alliteration on the ‘d’ makes the words sound more drawn out and heavy which suggests her depressed state:
‘Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy’
The audience sees Lady Macbeth take control of MacBeth’s actions for the last time in this next scene, the banquet scene. It starts in an orderly fashion and both MacBeth and Lady MacBeth greet the lords in to their banquet, showing the audience the couple does still do some things together although they are separated during the feast.
Throughout the scene Lady MacBeth encourages MacBeth on and tells him what to do:
‘…The feast is sold
That is not often vouched, while’t is a making
‘T’s given with welcome…’
The audience sees Lady Macbeth’s intelligence of thinking ahead about how the Lords might be feeling. She feels this is a ceremonious occasion and the audience can see she sees the importance of that:
‘You have displaced the mirth, broke
The good meeting.’
Lady MacBeth begins to get quite scornful towards MacBeth and tries to bring him back to his senses by saying; ‘O proper stuff ‘
As the scene progresses Lady MacBeth finds it harder and harder to keep on concealing MacBeth’s guilty conscience. The Lords ask him to sit down with them but he imagines the ghost of Banquo sat in his seat. He thinks the Lords have played a practical joke on him. When he sees the ghost again for the second time he starts to shout and scream at what is thought to be an empty chair. The lords conclude him as being mad and the audience begin to hear Macbeths guilty conscience coming across in his words. In Shakespeare times a ghost or anything to do with the afterlife were seen as symbols of revenge and bloodshed, and were very popular in this era.
Lady Macbeth tries to bring him back to his senses in a few simple ways; she firstly tells him he is imagining things: ‘This is the very painting of your fear’
Lady Macbeth then goes on to say that he’s acting like a fool: ‘What! Quite unmanned in folly?’
This doesn’t affect Macbeth for long and he ends up appearing to be more and more insane to the Lords, the audience can see Lady MacBeth trying to do the best she can to end the banquet on a good note. It all gets too much for her as she ends the scene by asking them to leave:
‘Stand not upon the order of your going
But go at once.’
Lady MacBeth asks the Lords to leave in no particular order letting the audience see the chaos and disorder caused by her husband.
Lady MacBeth is not seen again until near the end of the play. This shows the audience that her absence represents her unimportance. The last scene that includes Lady MacBeth involves her sleepwalking throughout the night. The audience can see that she is not able to sleep because of her troubled mind and the audience would also see this as a sign of ill health.
The scene starts with Lady MacBeth sleep walking through the castle carrying a taper representing the darkness that surrounded her. The taper is a symbol of keeping to hold away the darkness and evil.
Lady MacBeth is talking throughout sleeping also and reveals her guilt about the murder of Duncan to the doctor and the gentlewoman whom are listening:
‘…. Yet who would have thought the
Old man to have had so much blood in him’
Lady Macbeth doesn’t stop there she also reveals to the audience that she knows of Banquo’s death, by she says; ‘Banquo’s buried.’
Lady Macbeth although supposed to know nothing about the Thane of Fifes, wife admits that she to knows about the disappearance of her and her children; ‘The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?’ This shows the audience that even in her depressed state she still manages to know what is concerning her husband although the audience see that now she hasn’t got the strength or will power to help her cope with it all anymore.
We see her speeches are choppy and fragmented showing the chaos in her head and lack of control in her mind.
She walks around obsessively rubbing her bands together as if she were trying to erase something:
‘What will these hands ne’er be clean?’
The audience can see her guilty conscience emerging and starting to affect her. The imagery of blood prevalent in the play comes out here. The blood represents the murder, death and guilt all shown through the play.
Lady MacBeth goes on to say:
‘…. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
Hand Oh! Oh! Oh!’
Her sighs suggest she is suffering and is tormented by what she and her husband have done in the past. At this point the audience may feel a little sympathy for Lady MacBeth as they can see she is truly suffering.
The audience can see the dramatic change of Lady Macbeth that took place in the play. She is seen surprisingly different to how we visualise her in the beginning. Lady Macbeth starts off a very loving, strong, independent women and has a very close relationship with her husband. Unfortunately she doesn’t keep these characteristics throughout the whole of the play and becomes weak, dependent and troubled by the end of it. Causing herself to commit suicide.