The character of Macbeth is a typical example of a Shakespearean tragic hero. There are many factors and influences, which contribute to the downfall of Macbeth however, the main factor is Lady Macbeth and how she manipulates and influences his judgement. Lady Macbeth is a very ambitious character, she can realise her husband’s strengths and weaknesses and uses this to her advantage to manipulate him. Lady Macbeth is a very persuasive character and manages to become in control of Macbeth and allure him into the killing of Duncan as a test of his love for her, nevertheless the guilt from the events under the strain advances her into a breakdown.
At the beginning of the play Lady Macbeth is the more dominant partner and is the real influence behind the throne. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are opposites in many ways; Macbeth is the weak indecisive character and takes the more feminine role in their marriage, whereas Lady Macbeth is a more strong decisive person and has a more traditional male role in their partnership, which she uses this to her advantage to influence Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth is so ambitious that it seems she will go to any depths to achieve her goal.
“Under my battlements. Come you spirits, That tend on mortal thoughts unsex me here, And fill me from crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty : make thick my blood”
“Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murth’ring ministers.”
She is prepared for all woman qualities to be taken from her and replaced with evil because she does not think she has the evil in her naturally to be so cruel.
This shows the extent she is wiling to go to just to fulfil her ambitions, which means she would be prepared to go to any extent to persuade Macbeth to kill Duncan, to achieve her and his ambition.
The first place in the play in which Lady Macbeth tries to take control of Macbeth is in Act 5 Scene 1, line 73-75.
“Look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under ‘t.”
Here she is showing her two faced qualities and instructing Macbeth to act the same as her, and is showing that she is directing him therefore having an impact on him. She is asking him to be deceitful and something that he is not. This has a big effect on Macbeth as he has to use this a lot through out the play to cover up the murder of Duncan.
In Act 5 scene 1 Lady Macbeth is the controller over the scene, she dominates Macbeth so there will be much animation, praise and raised voice from Lady Macbeth to ensure the effort she is making to persuade him to kill Duncan.
“Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor, Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter, The letters have transported me beyond This ignorant present, and now The future in the instant.”
The tone of her voice is important in this situation as this is the first attempt she makes to persuade Macbeth into the murder. She also praises him when he enters the scene “Great Glamis” this makes him feel admired by his wife, and he will feel a desire to want to do things for her in return of her praise. Praise is another approach she uses to manipulate him.
When Macbeth and his wife talk about killing Duncan he is unsure of whether he can go through with it, because after all Duncan is his cousin. Therefore he changes his mind 6 times, until his wife interrupts him and uses her manipulative skills, in ways that she questions his man hood and calls him a coward to turn his view on killing Duncan and eventually convinces him to do it.
One of the main tactics Lady Macbeth would use is to call Macbeth a coward, hoping that he would act against her word and prove himself to her. The first time this is shown is in Act 1 Scene 7.
“Wouldst thou have that, Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life and live a coward in thine own esteem? When you durst do it than you were a man; and to be more than what you were you would, be so much more the man.”
Insulting Macbeth by calling him a coward, will fury him and make him want to kill Duncan just to prove a point to his wife that he isn’t a coward. Lady Macbeth realises that the last thing Macbeth wants is to have his manhood questioned or being called a coward, as he thinks of himself as being a brave man, this makes him feel very reprehensible.
In Act 1 scene 7 Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth that if he does not carry out the murder she cannot love him no more in order to persuade him.
“From this time such I account thy love” Lady Macbeth has used an act of persuasion once more. By telling him this it will make him feel pressured as if he has to do it, as he wants his wife to still love him.
Another method Lady Macbeth uses to persuade is to assure Macbeth that they will not fail. As shown near the end of Act 1 Scene 7.
“We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we’ll not fail what cannot you and I perform upon the unguarded Duncan? What not put upon, Spongy officers who shall bear guilt of our great quell?”
By telling Macbeth they cannot fail, it is reassurance to him that he has his wife behind him making sure they are going to succeed, which will encourage him more to want to go ahead with the killing of the king.
By the end of the scene, Lady Macbeth has fully and finally convinced Macbeth that he should murder Duncan. She is a huge influence on him, mainly by taunting and manipulating him, as she is able to make him think that murdering the king is a good idea.
Furthermore in Act 2 scene 2 Lady Macbeth is the organizer of
Duncan’s murder and instructs Macbeth step by step through the process, as he didn’t know how exactly he was going to kill Duncan.
“That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold… These doors are open and the surfeited grooms, Do mock their charge with shores: I have drugg’d their possets I laid their daggers ready, he could not miss’em.”
Consequently Lady Macbeth is an influence to Macbeth because she plans the murder, which is an encouragement to him to just go and do the deed. Macbeth knew he was going to kill Duncan but what he didn’t know was how, which then Lady Macbeth talked him through the process she had planned.
Lady Macbeth calls Macbeth a coward yet again to try and change his behaviour.
“My hands are of your colour but I shame to wear a heart so white.”
She now knows that this method works, consequently she now has more knowledge on how exactly she can control him. We know that Macbeth thinks of him self as a proud man and is considered as brave, therefore he would not like to think of himself being called a coward, Lady Macbeth’s intentions of this are the same as before to try and prove her wrong and resultantly change his behaviour.
After killing Duncan, Macbeth came later in the play to regret his wrongdoing.
“I am afraid, to think what I have done: Look on’t again, I dare not.”
At this point in the play you notice the change in Macbeth’s character. Macbeth’s first murder was an experience for him, however after this, killing seemed to be his only solution to maintain his reign of the people of Scotland. As Lady Macbeth was the first to introduce the concept of murder to him, she would be the cause for all the murders Macbeth carried out.
Act 3 Scene 4 is the scene where Macbeth sees Banquos ghost sitting in his chair and begins to go mad, to try and make him pull himself together Lady Macbeth questions his manhood.
“Are you a man?”
Macbeth reacts to this with “Ay and a bold one” then Macbeth continues the banquet with his friends and even says “I am a man again” which means that Lady Macbeth’s questioning of his manhood helped pull himself together.
Macbeth planned to kill Banquo by himself, and seems to no longer consult with his wife as he did before, and the killing of people is no longer a test of his love for her, but to prove his manhood, this was most probably caused by the constant questioning of his manhood. The close contact that had once been between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is not like it was and Macbeth is now working independently. Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth “to be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck till thou applauds the deeds.” This is what lady Macbeth would have said, when the dominant roles were reversed however Macbeth appears to have retained his traditional male role. He then continues to commit more crimes.
Once Macbeth knew the first prophecy had come true his ambitions led him to believe that the second prophecy may also come true. As the play has progressed Macbeth has relied on the witches prophecies and has been overcome with the ambition, with the help of his determined wife. Macbeth first came across the witches when he was returning from battle full of triumph and fresh from killing.
This has an impact on him because he has just been in battle killing so the first answer in his head to becoming king without taking the natural root is to kill. The prophecies influence his fate, by turning his ambitions into reality. Him and his wife were initially led to evil by the predictions and didn’t hesitate to commit a crime. The causes for Lady Macbeth’s strong influences on Macbeth were mainly down to the prophecies and she was also overcome by ambition as much, if not more than Macbeth was.
By Act 5 Scene 1, the formidable woman and brains behind the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth, has disintegrated and no longer has any influence over Macbeth. You can really see the difference in Lady Macbeth’s character throughout this scene and she is going slightly mental and is no longer stable.
The distance between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth at this point in the play and the guilt for everything that she has caused reflects back on her and she later commits suicide.
When Macbeth is informed of Lady Macbeth’s death he seems to show little sympathy for her. However this could be for the reason that now she is dead he has lost everything and now he cannot give her the life she deserved. At this stage of the play all of Macbeth’s dreams come to nothing and have indeed cost him dearly, therefore he has nothing left to do but to fight Macduff and keep his remaining soldiering qualities.
At the end of the play and the scene of the fight against Duncan, the only things that would be controlling him are the mixed emotions he is feeling as he would be feeling anger, fury and sadness that his wife had died. However he also seems determined, as he is willing to fight Macduff. Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth manhood so many times throughout the play, which he now feels that people think he is a coward so in this scene he tries to make sure people know he’s there. The witches’ predictions are also playing an influence on him, as he wants to prove them wrong and he thinks he is indestructible, that is until the fight with Macduff.
In conclusion it is power that makes Lady Macbeth get her way in the
world, which we know she uses several times on Macbeth, one of which was to convince him into the murder of Duncan. As the play progresses her influence on Macbeth grows stronger towards the middle part of the play and after that slowly reduces, this meant that she was getting powerless and without power she is nothing. Overall in the majority of the play Lady Macbeth seems to have a very strong influence on Macbeth and mainly uses the same methods throughout.