How Far Does Shakespeare Present Lady Macbeth As a Dominant Character Responsible For Her Husband’s Downfal

In many ways, Macbeth can be seen as a sign of Shakespeare's gratitude to his new king and benefactor. For example, King James actually traced his lineage back to real life.Banquo. Shakespeare's transformation of Banquo into Holinshed's Chronicles, which helped murder Duncan, to the nobleman in Macbeth who refused to kill Duncan, is therefore an issue.

Macbeth is a play about excuses and tricks. Shakespeare explores many topics from betrayal and loyalty to revenge and power. Macbeth, his wife and the three strange sisters are connected in their mutual refusal to come out directly and say things directly.

Instead, they rely on implications, riddles, and ambiguities to escape the truth. Macbeth's ability to manipulate his language and public image to hide his crimes makes him a very modern looking politician. But his inability to get past the equidistance of witches, even if he uses the practice itself, ultimately leads to his demise.

Lady Macbeth walks through the room and moves from a seemingly wild and heartless being to a very tender and fragile woman.

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At the beginning of the game she is very ambitious and hungry for power. She urges Macbeth to kill Duncan to fulfill the witches' prophecy. In Act I scene 6, she asks the gods to make her emotionally strong as a man to help her husband carry out the assassination. She says, 'Come on, ghosts who tend to think of mortals bring me here to have sex and fill me from head to toe with the cruelest cruelty! She also does everything in her to convince Macbeth that it would be wrong not to kill Duncan.

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The first sign of weakness appears in Act II scene 2 when she says she can't kill Duncan because he looks like his father. She explains, 'I had laid their daggers ready, he could not miss’em. Had he not resembled my father as he slept I had done’t” The other example of a weakness in Lady Macbeth's character is in Act III Scene 2, when she tries to comfort Macbeth by telling him not to worry about what he did to Duncan and what he will do in Banquo. She said to him: 'And now, my lord! Why do you remain alone, the darkest fantasy your companions make, using those thoughts that should have died with them, they think? Things without all means should be without consideration: What is done is done. The most ironic change in Lady Macbeth's character comes at the end of the game because considering her earlier avowal that she would be willing to kill her own child she excuses herself from killing Duncan because he looks like her father.

While Lady Macbeth continues to talk to the spirits, she asks for further transformation as she wants 'her milk' to be seen as 'gall'. Lady Macbeth would prefer her vital breast milk to be replaced by an abominable substance that brings bitterness and death. In a way, she wants to become the incarnation of death. Moreover, Lady Macbeth believes that she is more likely to be de-excited herself (and make her more of a man) and turn her fluid into poison, making her a serious threat.Lady Macbeth also wants to become more powerful by calling ghosts to 'thicken her blood'. Since blood, veins, arteries and heart form the circulation, they act as symbols of sensitivity and compassion for others. By demanding that her blood be thickened, Lady Macbeth asks to become less sensitive and ruthless, which makes her more determined in her plans to kill.

In other parts of the play Lady Macbeth shows her power of manipulation, consent and persuasion. During most of the first four acts of the play, she was the strongest character Macbeth always led and urged him to perform her action, but in Act V we begin to see that she wasn't as strong as she had appeared. First, in Act V, Scene 1, we see a disturbed Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. She seems to be very troubled by blood, probably that of King Duncan. Some of the comments she makes are: “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him', 'What will these hands never be clean?' and ' All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. “This is the emphasis that she has committed a sin that cannot be purified by the most powerful scent that comes from Arabia. When he murders Duncan, Macbeth thinks he hears a voice say 'Macbeth does murder sleep' in act two scene 2 Sleep symbolizes innocence, purity, and peace of mind, and in killing Duncan Macbeth actually does murder sleep. Lady Macbeth begins to sleepwalk as said previously, and Macbeth is haunted by his nightmares.

Initially, Lady Macbeth seems to be the one to 'wear the pants' in the relationship. She is the one to first suggest that King Duncan die before leaving Macbeth's castle, and she calls on the spirits to 'unsex her' or take away her femininity so that she can play her part in the murderous scene. Macbeth is very unsure about murdering the king whereas Lady Macbeth is confident and zealous to accomplish the deed. She is the one who makes all the plans, and keeps them from Macbeth until the time is right. Lady Macbeth was out drinking with the guards and now she is fired up to proceed in killing Duncan. Page 27, 2.2 “That which hath made me drunk hath made me bold, what hath quenched them hath given me fire.” She means that the alcohol that made the servants drunk has fired her up and she is ready to kill the king. Lady Macbeth says that she is ready to kill the king, but she does not have to do anything but make the guards drunk. Her Contradiction by her nervous demeanour & monosyllabic speech makes her appear on edge. From this point we start to see her power fading. Now That the king is dead, Macbeth is really paranoid and is regretting killing him. Page 29, 2.2 “Why, worthy thane, you do unbend your noble strength to think so brainsickly of things.” She means that Macbeth is driving himself-crazy thinking about the repercussions of killing Duncan. She says this because she wants him to forget about it. Also, she does not want to be worried about too, so she tells him to forget about it. ‘A little water clears us of this deed:’ Foreshadows her later imaginary handwashing in the sleepwalking scene. Motif of handwashing would be linked by contemporary audience with Pontius Pilate condemning Christ, so suggests her attitude is blasphemous.

However, ironically After the murder is committed, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth begin to almost switch places. Macbeth keeps secrets from Lady Macbeth, such as Banquo's death. Lady Macbeth becomes the one who is unstable and unsure to the point where she goes insane because she cannot handle what she has done and later on in the play goes on to demonstrate that in spite of her intransigent words to Macbeth, it is she who is unable to wash herself from this deed and cleanse her conscience. Macbeth becomes seemingly harsh and evil, confidently deciding to kill whoever might threaten his time on the throne. For both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, their greed, selfishness, and desire for the throne blind them to everything else and deteriorate their relationship to the point that upon Lady Macbeth's death, Macbeth barely seems to be concerned. Evidence of their relationship starting to split apart before her suicide is when she says in act two scene two ‘When?’ ‘Now?’ ‘As I descended?’ ‘Ay’ The choppy rhythm of the Macbeths’ dialogue reflects the start of the decomposing of their close relationship. Shakespeare has a suffix in this phrase, and The morpheme at the end of ‘descend’ displays all kinds of relationships between form, meaning, and function. Some are rare and have only vague meanings. Just like the relation between the word and its affix is the same type of relation between LM and Macbeth, a vague relationship. But are attached to each other because of many other good qualities.

Leading on to lady Macbeths suicide Macbeth afterwards started saying his thoughts through a soliquy releasing his true feelings to the audience he says in Act 5, Scene 5, :

“She should have died hereafter;

There would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.”

This is one of the most important scenes because this is where Shakespeare gives the audience one of the biggest plot twists in the play (lady Macbeths death) and many implicit messages through this soliloquy by literary techniques, structure, imagery. This soliloquy also creates sympathy in the audience for Macbeth. In one of the best soliloquies of literature, Macbeth compares life to an actor who engages in elaborate theatrics on the stage of life, but then never returns. He compares life to a story narrated by an idiot, who deceitfully portrays it as vital but which is actually meaningless. Through the many magnificent soliloquies, Shakespeare highlights his mastery over the art of dialogue under the appearance of a random chronicle play to entertain the Elizabethans.

Examples of the techniques used is when Macbeth say’s ‘She should have died hereafter’ May seem callous BUT marks a turning point in Mac’s attitude – up to this point he has seemed confident of victory ('Our castle's strength/ Will laugh a siege to scorn') – after her death he despairs life is meaningless without her. in the first stanza of the soliloquy The famous words 'tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow' exemplify effective use of repetition to enhance a theme. The rest of the speech is about how futile, repetitive, and hopeless life seems to Macbeth. Beginning with a hopeless type of repetition serving to underscore Macbeth's feeling of despair. Moreover the clause ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time;’ is an allusion that evinces that Macbeth believes that the days slowly pass by without us noticing. People seem to think that they have more time than they actually do, and before they know it their death arrives. In this soliloquy Macbeth additionally phrased “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more.” The first part shows us that Macbeth was slightly angry. Evidently, this is shown from the use of an exclamation mark after the word ‘candle’ suggesting a hyperbolic and loud tone of voice from Macbeth. Secondly In these lines, Macbeth first claims that life is something that really lacks substance; it is only a 'walking shadow.' Personifying the shadow that it can ‘walk’ gives reference to how he is feeling Next, he uses a metaphor to compare life to an actor, 'a poor player,' who has but a very short time to be on the stage because life is so short and passes so quickly. This is emphasized by the use of alliteration in the very same phrase(‘ poor player’). Lastly when Macbeth said in his soliloquy ‘It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing.” There is alliteration in the beginning like the previous phrases. This is because Shakespeare is attempting to create the effect that the reader focuses their attention on a particular section of text. create rhythm and mood and some connotations so they could be emotionally associated with what the character ‘macbeth’ is feeling. in the last part ‘sound and fury Signifying nothing.’ Is a very clever use of an oxymoron between ‘sound and nothing’ used by Shakespeare aspiring to make the reader think twice about the description and generally make a phrase more memorable whilst creating a dramatic effect.

To conclude this and come to the final evaluation of the main theme of this essay ‘How far does Shakespeare present Lady Macbeth as a dominant character responsible for her husband’s downfall? Well, in my opinion she is the major reason for his downfall because she was an evil dispensation just whispering in his ear trying to persuade him to kill Duncan leading him into this mess in the first place. She threatened him that if he does not complete this sin that she will ban him from sexual intercourse with her and hitting on his egotistical side trying to call him a coward and that he is not a man however, Macbeth is partly responsible because Once he was king the relationship between the two disintegrated and they no longer confided in one another. Macbeth showed his true colors when he ordered for all the Macduff family to be killed. Lady Macbeth had nothing to do with this and therefore cannot be blamed entirely for Macbeth’s fall and ultimate death. Secondly, He was ambitious and strived to be the king. Once he became King he strived to stay King and became very suspicious and paranoid of all people in his country. But some could say that LM made him become the mad man he is today but my policy is when you make a mistake you cannot blame anyone except yourself Finally, the witches are also partly responsible for Macbeth’s downfall. When Macbeth and Banquo on their way home from battle they met three witches. The witches tell Macbeth that he will become Thane of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland which gave him the motive to do all this in the first place.

Updated: Feb 22, 2024
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How Far Does Shakespeare Present Lady Macbeth As a Dominant Character Responsible For Her Husband’s Downfal. (2024, Feb 22). Retrieved from

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