How does Shakespeare present the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the scenes we have studied?
“Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him”. This quote in several respects has a sense of irony and relevance in conveying the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Their characters are perhaps Shakespeare’s most infamous, who as a result of the events in the play undergo a significant amount of conflict within their relationship. As a consequence, this emphasizes on the theme of tragedy, and the sympathy the audience feels towards not only the tragic hero but too the tragic villain.
Perhaps the first indication of a harmonious relationship is conveyed in Act One Scene Four in line 9 to 10, where Macbeth in his letter to his wife, Lady Macbeth refers to her as “my dearest partner of greatness”. From this statement, the audience can see that the characters have a closely intimate relationship. Macbeth highly views his wife, and this is shown from the letter, which Macbeth sends to Lady Macbeth to announce that the witches have concluded that he shall be “King hereafter”. This news had to reach Lady Macbeth’s ears immediately, hence showing the compassion and trust Macbeth has for his wife, especially as the letter itself mentioned witchcraft and conspiracies. The audience could perhaps suspect from Macbeth’s use of the word “greatness” that Lady Macbeth has a hold, a grip on him and that she holds the power in the relationship. This in turn is where the tragedy unfolds, his underlying and charismatic love for his wife, could lead him to do just about anything for her and her desires.
As the audience further digresses into Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy, you begin to see a different perspective into the relationship of these characters. Despite Macbeth referring to his wife as his “dearest partner of greatness”, Lady Macbeth feels quite the contrary about her husband. She doubts his willpower to conquer his desires, and become what he has been promised. She refers to Macbeth as a man “too full o’th’ milk of human kindness”. In her eyes, Macbeth is a pure and virtuous man. Macbeth without exception does not lack ambition and desire, nevertheless, he is unable to go forth and achieve what he has been set out to be. Perhaps in the audience’s eyes, murder of the king is an extreme measure, and we view Macbeth as innocent, and a noble solider who would not betray his king. The audience sympathizes with Macbeth, for he is only showing the true characteristics of a man: someone thriving with ambition, someone quite contrary to weak and submissive, and someone so virtuous and good, not someone filled with the lust for power, and greed. Similarly, throughout Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy she expresses her lack of faith in her husband through caesuras.
Caesuras are used frequently, especially in lines 15,17, 19 and 20. In turn Shakespeare’s use of the technique emphasizes Lady Macbeth’s doubt in Macbeth, and how wholesome he really is. The first part of the sentence generally consists of her stating that she acknowledges that Macbeth has ambition and that he is righteous by all means. She then follows the phrase with a caesura, and concludes it with her wavering faith, and states just how innocent he is, and what he is too afraid to do. This is shown in line 15 where Lady Macbeth begins her sentence with “What thou art promised”: (the caesura) and concludes the sentence with “yet I do fear thy nature”. Moreover, the caesura used also has the effect of breaking the fluency of the sentence, and the flow of the sound; this is significant because it shows Lady Macbeth is breaking the fluency in her mind, and her train of thought.
The abrupt pause causes the audience to understand the character of Lady Macbeth more literally and to understand how her views towards Macbeth differ. Lady Macbeth through this is shown as superior, who is perhaps the dominating character of the two. She comes across as a woman, who is manipulative and expects her desires to be met. The tragedy itself lies in Lady Macbeth’s ability to persuade and manipulate. The audience understands the love Macbeth has for his wife, and understands that he is considered inferior beside her, but what we yet do not know is how far he is willing to go to please his “dearest partner of greatness”.
Moreover, in Act One Scene Seven, the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth begins to flourish. An indication that the characters are very close is strengthened by the way that they finish one another’s iambic pentameter. This is conveyed in line 29 to 30, “Macbeth: Hath he asked for me” “Lady Macbeth: Know you not he has?” The iambic pentameter used expresses fluency in their speech and simultaneously in their relationship. They show that their love is overpowering and passionate, and that they have unity among one another. This therefore indicates that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have a union: a strong relationship. Nevertheless, despite the fluency in their relationship, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have a disagreement as to what it is to be a man, and what is to be done with Duncan, hence showing the conflict in their relationship. In line 38 to 39 Lady Macbeth states “From this time Such I account thy love”, and in line 41 to 44 “Woudst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem, letting ‘I do not’ wait upon ‘I would’.”
Due to Macbeth’s weariness to commit the deed, Lady Macbeth questions his love for her. She uses her technique of manipulation to not only question his love but too his masculinity, in hope that the act of saying Macbeth is less of a man will persuade him to go through with the original plan. The audience can see how the greed Lady Macbeth has, has clouded her judgment. She sees her husband as an ambitious man, but simply lacks the willpower. She compares him to a coward, yet another one of her schemes of manipulation, and says that when he said he was going to kill Duncan he was seen as a man, and that a mans word is his honor. She continuously implies that Macbeth is less of man, and his word and love been nothing until it is put into action. In a nutshell, his ambition does not match the act. However, Macbeth replies to these insinuations in line 46 to 47 “I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none”. He states that not having the desire to kill Duncan does not imply that he is less of a man, but it is less of a human to do such a thing.
He is virtuous and has loyalty towards Duncan. Macbeth is not allowing himself to be manipulated by his wife for in his eyes, and simultaneously the audience’s, the idea of being a man is someone loyal, faithful and in a sense without flaw. However, Lady Macbeth’s ability to persuade him in the sense of flattery, and in guilt, is perhaps what is leading him to consider killing Duncan. The audience may interpret the character of Lady Macbeth as expressing more conventional masculine features then Macbeth himself, and this is indicated when Macbeth says “Bring forth men-children only”. The audience can see that the characters do have love towards one another and are passionate in their ambitions and desires and in a sense wish nothing but the best for one anther, however, they too have a conflicted relationship, where greed is more prominent then love, manipulation is used to convince one another to agree to do something, and their contrasting characteristics, one perhaps more feminine or masculine then the other, that causes conflict throughout their decisions and their relationship.
Finally, in Act Two Scene Two, after the murder has been committed, the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth begins to differ once again. The audience could perhaps suggest that the bond between the characters becomes harmonized. This is outlined in their use of euphemistic language. In line 14 Macbeth says, “I have done the deed”, the euphemism here being the “deed” and in line 30 Lady Macbeth says, “Consider it not so deeply”, and the euphemism here being “it”. The significance of euphemistic language is to spare the feelings that both characters feel about their reality. They use this technique as a somewhat coping mechanism, to avoid the reality of the murder of Duncan. Macbeth has not yet fully acknowledged what he has committed, therefore, when telling Lady Macbeth what he has done; he does not refer to it as murder but merely “the deed”.
Macbeth realizes that he no longer has his innocence, and Lady Macbeth in a sense of comforting the distort Macbeth uses euphemisms too, as she neither refers to the murder as what it is. This suggests that the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is closely bonded. Whilst Macbeth is still trying to comprehend what he has done, Lady Macbeth comforts him and is his reassurance. This shows that the pair are in harmony and have a strong union among one another. As a consequence of the murder, the audience feels sympathy for Macbeth, as he represents the recurring theme of tragedy. Shakespeare’s ability to take a character who was “too full o’th’ milk of human kindness”, and turn him into a murderer who no longer holds that sense of innocence and purity, makes the audience maintain sympathy for him.
In conclusion, the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is a spiral of harmony and unity and of manipulation and lust.