Trace the change in the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth throughout the course of the play. In doing this, you should examine carefully and comment on the language used by both characters, and by other characters in speaking about the pair.
In this coursework I will be studying the change in relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. At the time in which this play is based, a typical marriage would have been a male dominated relationship, while the woman’s role would be to bear children and raise them. A good example of this type of family is Macduff’s. Lady Macduff stays at home looking after their children while
Macduff goes off, for example, to war. He even flees the country without informing her which shows that they live basically separate lives. Lady Macduff at this time calls him a coward and a traitor revealing that he had not even confided in her his views of Macbeth and Macbaeth’s treachery, either not trusting her or does not see her as important enough to be told of such things.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are an anamoly because they have no children and, in the beginning of the play, are close to each other; he writes to her and is joyfull when he is reunited with her after being at war. They have a fairly equal relationship as we see when Macbeth confides in her and includes her in his plans to become King.
I intend to trace their relationship from its early stages to its tragic ending. I will include many key events which contribute to the change in their relationship.
By the first time Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are seen together, a lot has happened recently. Macbeth has won reknwn for his courage in battle against traitors to King Duncan and has been described as brave as “brave” and “like valour’s minion” because of his exploits in battle. He has met the witches while journeying with Banquo and is contemplating the predictions then made, one of which has already come true.
Macbeth is at this stage merely toying with the fanciful idea that he could be King, and is worried about the witches’ predictions:
“This supernatural soliciting
cannot be ill, cannot be good…”
He is inticed, but does not seem too driven:
“If Chance will have me King, why, Chance may
without my stir.”
Macbeth is humble towards King Duncan and believes that if he serves Duncan well, he will be awarded appropriately:
“The service and the loyalty I owe,
In doing it pays itself.”
Duncan is proud of Macbeth, he regards him with high respect and thinks that one day he will become very high-ranking and important in Scottish society:
“I have begun to plant thee, and will labour
To make thee full of growing.”
After reading the letter from her husband, a plan forms in the mind of Lady Macbeth to kill Duncan that night as he sleeps in their castle. She tellsherself that she must emotionless to the treachery they will commit:
“…unsex me here
And fill me from the crown to the toe topfull
Of direst cruelty.”
Showing her strong will, she seems to rob herself of any mercy that could hold her back.
Macbeth greets his wife with “My Dearest Love” as their relationship is based on a deep love of each other and a strong partnership. This side of their relationship comes across very little throughout the entire play.
In ActI Scene vii Macbeth who was up to now a man of action becomes a creature or words and doubts, worrying about the possible consequences of their murdering
“If it were done when ‘t is done, then ‘t were well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcrease success.”
He weighs up the reasons for and against the murdering of Duncan. He can find no excuse to kill him apart from his thirst for success:
“I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself
And falls on the oher.”
Lady Macbeth scolds him for being so feeble-minded and when he tells her that he does not want to kill duncan she becomes angry. She makes him feel inferior to her by taunting him and calling him a coward, she questions his masculinity. Macbeth gives into her to win her love back because by attacking him verbally
made him feel uunworthy of her.
Macbeth shows signs of insanity when he imagines that he sees a dagger leading him towards Duncan’s room:
“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee…”
It is debatable whether he imagines this dagger is before him or whether it is dark magic by the witches.
After he has “done the deed” Macbeth is in severe shock and deeply regrets doing it. Although Lady Macbeth takes control of the situation when she finds that Macbeth did not have the wit to plant the daggers on the guards, she shows weakness with the line:
“had he not resembled
my father as he slept, I had done ‘t.”
We now see that after all her boasting, her humanity took over and this leads to her downfall – her inability to murder Duncan is the first time that we see her human feeling is more powerful than her naked ambition. However, she is impatient with Macbeth and decides to go back and plant the daggers herself.
She shows more sensitivity when she consoles Macbeth:
“Consider it not so deeply.”
Macbeth has now changed from a noble soldier to a treacherous murderer.
At the start of ActIII, banquo who was present at the time of the witches’ predictions, is the first person we see to suspect macbeth of murdering Duncan:
“Thou hast it now, King, cawdor, Glamis, all,
As the wierd women promised; and, I fear,
Thou playedst most foully for ‘t.”
Macbeth acts very friendly towards Banquo when the other thanes are around so that they will not suspect him to be behind Banquo’s murder. Lady Macbeth is also completely ablivious to what is happening – she does not suspect anything when Macbeth tells her to pay special attention to Banquo at the banquet:
“Let your remembrance apply to Banquo:
Present him eminence, both with eye and tongue.”
Macbeth has excluded Lady Macbeth from his treacherous plans – she who was his partner and the most determined in the murder of Duncan. We see a role-reversal.
Macbeth makes several long speeches to the murderers seemingly to convince them that they want to murder Banquo but it seems like he is trying to convince himself. He makes promises of riches and acceptance in society to get them to carry out the murders.
Both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth now regret what they have done but they have different regrets. Lady Macbeth thinks that they were foolish to murder Duncan, she would rather live before the witches’ predictions with less riches and power but with a free conscience:
“Nought’s had, all’s spent,
Where our desire is got without content:
‘T is safer to be that which we destroy,
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.”
However, Macbeth thinks that he would rather have Duncan’s fate than live the way he lives now, having fitful sleep and a guilty conscience. He says that Duncan is lucky as he is free of all worries.
The banquet scene is very significant because it is the last time Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and seen together. Macbeth is anxious because he is waiting for news from the murderers.
When Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo smiling at him, it bears the wounds that Macbeth was the cause of. Macbeth who was already on the brink of insanity, toppled over the edge. His outbursts alarmed the guests and Lady Macbeth tried to cover up from him but did not really succeed. when talking to him in private, she becomes dominant once more but when she questions his manhood this time, he does not feel any shame. This shows their decreasing closeness, the fact that he does not feel the need to please her anymore.
So as Macbeth would not blurt out anything more incriminating for them in front of the Thanes, Lady Macbeth had to ask them to leave.
ActIII Scene iv ends with Lady Macbeth talking to Macbeth except Macbeth talks to himself most of the itme durinf this conversation. It shows how separated the two are, and how Lady Macbeth is excluded.
ActIII sees the Thanes coming together and discussing Macbeth – how he came to power, what he has done since and how to stop hhim showing how the opinions of the Thanes have changed.
The visions that he finds when he dimands them from the witches disturb Macbeth. Although he is confident that Birnam Wood willl never move in his lifetime, and he thinks that everyone is “born of woman”, he becomes very hasty:
“The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The very firstlings of my hand.”
The fact that Lady Macduff does not know of Macbeth’s rteacherous doings:
“His flight was madness. When our actions do not,
Our fears do make us traitors.”
shows that in a nornal marriage, the husband would tell their wife very little.
This is emphasised because Macduff was the Thane who first went against Macbeth (he refused his invitation to the banquet) and fled the country when his wife didn’t know anything was wrong.
Macduff goes to Malcolm in England to get military assistance to lead a revolt against Macbeth. He gets support and they plan to start marching to Dunsinane.
Everyone now realises Macbeth’s Treachery and are enraged when he attacks Macduff’s defenceless castle.
Lady Macbeth does not appear in ActIV. We can only presume that she is becoming increasingly insane all the time.
Lady Macbeth is insane. She, according to the gentlewoman, sleepwalks and sleeptalks regularly. Her guilt because of the part she played in the murder of Duncan has been concealed inside her because of her separation from Macbeth. She had no-one to talk to about her troubles so her secrets come out when she doesn’t realise it:
“Here’s the smell of blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia could not sweeten this little
This exageration tells us of the immensity of her guilt.
In the middle of the battle preparations, Macbeth is informed of the wife’s death. He seems to be affected little. He briefly reflects on life:
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…”
He continues with the battle until his show down with Macduff. He dies arrogantly but in an odd way heroicly because he knows there is no hope but keeps battling on.
In the short time the Macbeths occupied the Throne, a lot happened and in this work, I saw their changes in personality and actions throughout the play.