William Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth’ is set Scotland in the eleventh century. The play is about the protagonist Macbeth’s, bloody rise to power, through the murder of the Scottish king, Duncan. Macbeths ambition is to become king. In the play there are both powerful, manipulative and unnatural women portrayed by the likes of Lady Macbeth and the witches and the not so powerful and more traditional portrayal of females such as we see in Lady McDuff.
The witches are portrayed as having ultimate power over Macbeth and the way in which they make potions, mixtures and use magic which makes them quite unnatural as this is not something an ordinary human would do. Lady Macbeth is shown as the more dominant figure with lots of power and is manipulative and a unnatural character. However after the murder of King Duncan she is overwhelmed by the guilt and begins to lose power, and is less manipulative over Macbeth. Lady Macduff on the other hand is the complete opposite of Lady Macbeth and the witches and is portrayed as being a stereotypical women from the eleventh century.
She has very little power and perceived as being a normal female of the time. At the beginning of the play Lady Macbeth is a strong, powerful and manipulative person and she is more controlling than her husband Macbeth. Generally in the eleventh century, males are more domineering and powerful over females but that was not the case in Macbeth. Lady Macbeth seems to have more power than Macbeth as she successfully changes Macbeths mind to kill king Duncan through her manipulation ‘Look like th’ innocent flower but be the serpent under it’. Lady Macbeth is very unnatural as she want to be filled with cruelty to go through with the deed.
‘Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts! unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty’. Lady Macbeth receives a letter from Macbeth where he states he is having thoughts of killing Duncan but he does not say that he will. Lady Macbeth decides to take the matter into her own hands because she wants a better title for herself. She is stronger minded than Macbeth as she knows that although Macbeth is an ambitious person he is too noble to be able to go through with the deed himself. She manipulates his self-esteem by playing with his manliness and his bravery.
However towards the end of the play and after the killing of King Duncan she is overwhelmed by guilt and losses all her power and Macbeth appears to be the more dominant character. She becomes more natural and less manipulative after her guilt catches up with her. Throughout the play the 3 witches are portrayed as having ultimate power and are very unnatural in the way they use magic and prophecy to control and manipulate characters such as Macbeth whom they control through addicting him through prediction of his future which he completely believes they have the power to do.
At the beginning of the play the witches greet Macbeth as ‘Thane of Glams’, ‘Thane of Cawdor’ and as ‘King of Scotland’. This prophecy leads Macbeth to genuinely think about being in control and having power. After Macbeth received the news that he was Thane of Cawdor he built a trust with the Witches as he now believes they were right about everything. Macbeth continued seeing the witches to see what his future will hold, ‘speak, I charge you’. The witches are portrayed as being unnatural and unhuman like as they make all different kinds of potions and eat unusual mixture. ‘in the cauldron boil and bake; eye of newt and toe of frog’.
The Witches therefor are very powerful, in the way they control Macbeth and manipulate him in his desperation for power. They are also very unnatural and demonstrate unhuman like behaviours in the way they eat unnatural things. Lady Macduff is the complete opposite to Lady Macbeth and the witches and is portrayed as being a stereotypical women from the eleventh century. Lady Macduff has no power, is submissive and is portrayed as a natural female. Lady Macduff cares about her son and has maternal instinct, ‘to leave his wife to leave his babies from whence himself does fly?
‘ She is protective of her son and is a traditional mother figure. Lady Macduff is loyal to Duncan and Scotland and cares about the welfare of the country. In a conversation with Ross Lady Macbeth says, ‘ His fight with madness. When our actions do not, out fears do make us traitors’. She is so loyal to Scotland that she considers her own husband a traitor for leaving the country and believes that every traitor should be hanged. ‘Everyone that does so is a traitor and must be hanged’. Lady Macduff is the opposite to being powerful, manipulative and unnatural as she lets her husband take the lead and essentially needs him for living.
Courtney from Study Moose
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