In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, ambition, strength, and insanity play major roles in how the characters Macbeth and Lady Macbeth behave and react. In this twisted story about man slaughter and the thirst for power both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth represent all 3 of these behaviors at some point. However, their behaviors progress in very different ways. Throughout the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth gradually evolve into each other bringing out opposite personality traits from their previous opinions. It is well known that simply wanting something is not enough to actually get it.
One must have the desire, the ambition and must work towards obtaining a certain goal. In the beginning of the play Macbeth has the desire to become king, but lacks the motivation and ambition to work for it. He doesn’t have the violent drive that Lady Macbeth possesses and is frankly just a moral man with moral values. He acquires the ability to see right from wrong and shows that he has a very strong conscience when he says, “I am Thane of Cawdor. / If good, why do I yield to that suggestion/[thought of killing Duncan] whose horrid image doth unfix my hair/ and make my seated heart knock at my ribs/ against the use of nature?
“(1. 3. 146-150). Here Macbeth shows that the thought of killing Duncan makes him uneasy, nervous and frightened. Already his senses are warning him that what he is thinking is wrong, but unfortunately enough for Macbeth he is mentally weak and easily convinced. Lady Macbeth on the other hand has all the strength, ambition, motivation and desire to become royalty. She knows her husband well and knows that he will not take action against Duncan, so she decides to take matters into her own hands. Lady Macbeth calls upon the forces of evil to “unsex [her] here, / and fill [her] from the crown to the toe top- full/ of direst cruelty.
Make thick [her] blood, / stop the passage to remorse” (1. 5. 48-51). In this speech there is no perplexity that Lady Macbeth is clearly willing to do whatever necessary to take hold of the throne. Her strength of purpose is contrasted with her husband’s tendency to waver and it will be her ambition and strength that questions his manhood, which will drive him forward to a life of misery and violence. Macbeth is a mentally weak character that undergoes a drastic mental change after committing cold blooded murder. He is progressively becoming more evil as his inhuman deeds allow his evil nature to take control of his thoughts and actions.
Macbeth becomes paranoid about losing power and obsessed with proving his manhood. He associates manhood with fighting and bloodshed when he says, “What man dare, I dare. / Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,/ The armed rhinoceros, or th’ Nyrean tiger,/Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves/ Shall never tremble. ” (3. 4. 121-125) Just as Lady Macbeth was, Macbeth becomes a manipulative mastermind who is so power thirsty and driven by violence that he would kill anyone, even his best friend, to get what he wants.
As Macbeth’s mind relocates to a state of paranoia and violence, Lady Macbeth’s conscience slowly starts to eat her away forcing her to resort to a life of misery, insanity, and eventually death. Her guilt is so strong that she is haunted in her sleep by the image of blood. Lady Macbeth could not rest peacefully without trying to wash all the blood off of her hands, “Out, damned spot; out, I say”(5. 1. 30) she would mutter as she wandered around the castle carrying a candlestick for light and rubbing her hands together trying to rub off all of the guilt.
Shakespeare makes a valid point in this play that the future of your life does not depend on someone else, but is in entirely your hands. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth could have avoided their own misery and downfall if only they did things differently. Don’t get too caught up in yourself but be patient and be grateful for what you have because a lot of people would love to be in your position than their own. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth gradually become different people, one for the better and one for the worse.
Courtney from Study Moose
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