At the end of the play, Malcolm, the newly crowned King of Scotland describes Lady Macbeth as a ‘fiend-like queen.’ To a certain extent this judgement is true, yet Lady Macbeth has to actually evoke evil spirits to help prevent her from feeling any compassion or warmth. The evil spirits ‘unsex’ Lady Macbeth and remove all feminine qualities from her, trading them for evil, proving that deep down there must be some good in her if she has to call for some outside help to aid her with her deeds.
Lady Macbeth likes to be seen as ruthless and cruel by everyone, yet we know that she must have feelings if she cannot bring herself to murder King Duncan because he ‘resembled my father as he slept.’ This shows that she cannot possibly be as heartless as she appears on the exterior, she still has feelings for others which she tries to bury deep inside and cover up with all the evil, rarely letting the good surface. We see her inner feelings struggling to keep buried when she sleepwalks after Duncan’s murder. She is over heard struggling to cope with such a vulgar act and finds it difficult to keep her sanity showing how Macbeth is becoming the stronger partner in the relationship whilst Lady Macbeth is being driven insane by her guilt.
She started out as the stronger character in her relationship with Macbeth and constantly played with his masculinity, trying to convince him to carry out the murder, yet she admitted that she wouldn’t be able to actually commit the deed. This is just showing how weak she actually is compared to how she appears and before the murder was committed she had to consume alcohol to boost her confidence, claiming ‘that which hath made them drunk, hath made me bold.’ This isn’t necessarily true as every small everyday sound makes her jump giving out an image of a nervous, scared woman underneath her cover of a strong, evil fiend.
However, at the beginning of the play a different woman is portrayed. She is a loyal wife who has great ambitions for Macbeth, she is the one who convinces him to kill Duncan in order to receive the thrown. Lady Macbeth is the one who realises after reading her husband’s letter that Duncan needs to be killed in order for the witches’ prophecy to come true. She feels that Macbeth is too honest and caring to commit such a deed so she evokes the spirits to help her which would then help her make Macbeth do what she wants, get the throne. She blackmails Macbeth by saying that if he truly loved her then he would do it and she questions his manhood and masculinity. Lady Macbeth suggests that the killing initiates Macbeth into manhood.
Although originally Lady Macbeth was the backbone of her and Macbeth’s relationship, and she helped convince Macbeth to kill Duncan, I think that Malcolm’s condemnation of Lady Macbeth is exaggerated. Malcolm has reason to aim all hatred towards Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, he has a right as they did plot, and actually kill his father. Yet I think Malcolm was a bit quick to judge Lady Macbeth as a ‘juggling fiend’, he hadn’t seen all that really went on. Malcolm hadn’t seen that there was more to Lady Macbeth than just a cold, heartless woman, that woman actually did have feelings as the weakness within herself lead to her suicide.
Macbeth at the beginning of the play is seen as a valiant, brave and courageous man, anything but a bloodthirsty ‘butcher.’ Being described as a ‘butcher’ suggests that Macbeth is delighted by bloodshed which is definitely not the case throughout King Duncan’s murder. Throughout the crime Macbeth becomes a nervous wreck and nearly ruins the plan by returning to Lady Macbeth carrying the blood covered daggers which he was meant to initially leave with the grooms. Similarly Macbeth is deeply affected by the murder and acts on edge during the crime, jumping just the sound of an owl’s shriek.
At the beginning Macbeth was a trustworthy, loyal man and respected Duncan. It seemed that his ambition overcame his original feelings of loyalty to the King and that he might already have had it in him as when he first meets the witches he asks them to stay, wanting to know more. It was his duty to protect the King, not turn against him, and kill murderers, not change into one. After all Macbeth was named ‘Thane of Cawdor’ by King Duncan. However this title is ironic as it once belonged to a disloyal traitor, which Macbeth later on becomes in the play. Yet Macbeth does dismiss and disregard the idea of murdering King Duncan, he can’t let himself believe he would contemplate such a thing. Once confiding his innermost desires to Lady Macbeth he cannot escape the idea, Lady Macbeth willingly takes charge of the situation which Macbeth accepts and begins to formulate a plot.
After going through with the murder with Lady Macbeth’s support and help, Macbeth starts talking about hearing people crying out ‘Murder!’ in their sleep. He soon comes to the realisation that he will never be able to sleep innocently again. At the thought of this Macbeth begins to lose control but Lady Macbeth manages to keep him sane. Lady Macbeth appears as if she is in control of the situation, but she is already showing signs of weakness especially as she needed supernatural assistance and alcohol to help her get through the crime.
Once successfully carrying out one murder, Macbeth begins to carry out more. He murders Banquo and Macduff’s family, each time becoming easier. Macbeth didn’t even talk to Lady Macbeth about killing Lady Macduff and her children, it was a pointless and reckless thing to have done, it was uncalled for. Macbeth didn’t gain anything by killing Macduff’s family and so this could seem as butchery. Macbeth is actually described as a butcher both at the beginning and end of the novel, yet in different senses. At the beginning he is portrayed as a brave soldier, ’till he unseamed him from the nave to the chops.’ Yet this is describing Macbeth as courageous, unlike a cold ‘butcher’ at the end.
I personally do not agree with Malcolm’s opinion of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. I understand that from his point of view all that Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are ‘fiends’ and ‘butchers,’ but Malcolm doesn’t know the true depth of the real goings on. Malcolm sees them as heartless characters who murdered his father, he has a right to envision them in this particular manner, but what he doesn’t acknowledge is that they do actually have feelings. Macbeth very much so had a conscience and sometimes his feelings caused him to lose his grip on reality and Lady Macbeth’s feelings of guilt resulted in overcoming her and driving her to her suicide.
Macbeth wanted to make sure he resulted with being King and keeping his place as King, it was their ambition which broke down their once loving marriage. Lady Macbeth clearly did have feelings, although she rarely expressed them her subconscious was eating away at her and was only shown when she was sleepwalking. Her overwhelming feelings drove her to eventually commit suicide and although Macbeth just says ‘she would have died sometime’ the old Macbeth wouldn’t have cared greatly. I think it was the witches being ever present in his mind which directed Macbeth to kill and let his ambition get the better of him.
To a certain extent I think Malcolm’s judgement is justified as Macbeth did appear as a bloodthirsty, barbaric dishonest ‘butcher’ yet Malcolm didn’t see what the audience of the play would have seen. Malcolm didn’t know what really went on between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, the things they said or did and so would come to a preconceived judgement of their characters. However I think that there is more to Macbeth than just a ‘butcher’ and that there are feelings within the ‘fiend-like queen,’ they have been judged unfairly and too quickly by Malcolm.
Courtney from Study Moose
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