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What kind of woman is Lady Macbeth?

Categories: Macbeth

The play of Macbeth has a lot to do with power and greed. Macbeth is considered by many people to be a good man who is very brave and a hero, for example King Duncan himself refers to him as “O worthiest cousin, the sin of my ingratitude even now was heavy on me.” He is also crowned Thane of Cowdor, This is the Scottish version of a Lord and can only achieve this status by impressing the king, usually by serving him well in battle as in Macbeths case.

It is hard to underline the driving force behind the main events in the Play and equally hard to know what emotions drove the characters to do what they did.

Lady Macbeth is a very important character in the play and has a large part to play in the death of King Duncan. Many people believe that without the ambition and persuasion of Lady Macbeth than Macbeth would not have been driven to killing King Duncan and he may never had been murdered.

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After reading the play and analysing Lady Macbeth closely I believe that she is a complicated woman. She is put across to me as being a cold, nasty, ambitious women but yet clever and quick witted. I believe this as in act 1 scene 5 when we first meet Lady Macbeth she is reading a letter received from her husband explaining the encounter with the witches and the prophecies he had been told, she immediately assumes they must kill Duncan, “What thou art promised, yet do I fear thy nature, it is too full o’th’milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way”.

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Lady Macbeth is saying that She believes Macbeth will be king but thinks that he is to soft to sort it out. This is why I believe she is a cold and nasty women. Lady Macbeth wants to talk all the goodness out of Macbeth so he will be brutal and dark enough to do the dirty deed, “Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valour of my tongue all that impedes thee from the golden round, which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem to have thee crowned withal”. I also know that Lady Macbeth does finally succumb to guilt and madness of the death of Duncan. This tells me that she must have truly believed that she had a large part to do with the murder of Duncan. This also gives me the impression that she might have been neurotic or unstable, possibly depressed of a loss of a child.

From the moment that Lady Macbeth reads the letter from Macbeth we see the dark side of her. She immediately assumes that they must kill the king, “Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse that no compunctions visitings of nature shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between Th’ effect and it. Here L Macbeth wants it so she won’t feel guilty, so nothing will stop her from doing the evil things she is planning. Although L Macbeth is determined for Macbeth to become king she shows no signs in ambition for herself to becoming queen.

During the same seen a messenger tells L Macbeth that the King will be visiting their castle for the night, hearing this news she is astonished and confused because she was just thinking about Macbeth being King. From this information L Macbeth decides almost instantaneously that the king is to be murdered that night, “Come, thick night, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, to cry, hold, hold”. Lady Macbeth wants the night to be really, really dark so they can do murder without being seen, not even by god who would tell them not to do it.

We can see further that L Macbeth can be very controlling of Macbeth knows him very well and how to manipulate his mind. During act 1 scene 7 we see Macbeth chance his mind on the plan they have of killing the king, “We will proceed no further in this business. He hath honoured me of late, and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people, which would be worn now in their newest gloss, not cast aside so soon.” This is Macbeth letting L Macbeth know that they are to go through with the murder as Duncan has been so kind to him and that should not be thrown away. Here we see the good side of Macbeth, he doesn’t want to kill the king but his wife has different views apon the matter. L Macbeth doesn’t take this news very well she emmidietly follows with, “From this time, such I account thy love. Art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valour, As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem.”

She is telling him if he doesn’t go through with it he doesn’t love her much. He is too scared and cowardly to take what he wants. This seems to have an effect on Macbeth because by the end of the scene has been persuaded by L Macbeth to eventually to go through with the murder, I know as Macbeth tells L Macbeth “I am settled and bend up each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Away, and mock the time with fairest show, False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” He is basically saying that he has been convinced, he will put all his effort into it and pretend to be nice so people wont know what he is thinking. This shows that L Macbeth is a very powerful character and more or less made the decision for Macbeth. This tells me that they have a strong relationship and Macbeth very much loves her and truly trusts her.

Even before Macbeth carries out the murder he shows signs of guilt and remorse as he is on his way to kill Duncan he sees a dagger in front of him.

Soon after the murder Macbeth goes to pieces, Macbeth does not carryout the plan efficiently and breakdown before he can frame the guards by planting Duncans blood on them. Lady Macbeth has to cover up his mistakes by finishing the plan off. Macbeth Tells L Macbeth that he heard Malcolm and Donalbain cry Murder during their sleep. “Theres one did laugh ins sleep and one cried murder! That they did wake each other I stood and heard them but they did say their prayers and adressed them again to sleep.” This is the first sign of Macbeth feeling guilty as he is on edge. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth “consider it not so deeply”, stop stressing about it.

Again Macbeth tells of him hearing voices ” Methought I heard a voice cry sleep no more Macbeth does murder sleep, Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, the death of each days life, sore labours bath, Balm of hurt minds, great natures second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast.” Macbeth explains to his wife this is either a supernatural voice or the mind of his own. He is also upset as he was told by the voice that he wouldn’t sleep any more.

Macbeth behaves very strangely at their first royal banquet as king and queen. At this point in the play a murderer has told Macbeth that Banquo is dead. During act 3 scene 4 Banquo’s ghost enters and sits in Macbeth’s chair. Macbeth continues by talking to himself “here had we now our countrys honour roofed, were the graced person of our Banquo present, who may I rather challenge for unkindness than pity for mischance.

The guests at the banquet notice Macbeths unusual behaviour, Lenox questions Macbeths behaviour, “What isn’t that moves your highness? Lady Macbeth has to make excuses for him, “Upon a thought He will again be well. If much you note him you shall offend him and extend his passion”. Lady Macbeth tells Lenox “he will be OK in a minute, but will only get worse if you make a fuss”. It is not until late in the play that Lady Macbeths guilt catches up with her and suffers a breakdown in which results in her suicide.

Act 1 Scene 5

This is a very important scene when analysing the character of Lady Macbeth as it is the first time we see her and have only first impressions to judge her personalities to. We first meet her in this scene reading a letter she has received from her husband telling her of the witches predictions and that the first one had come true, him to be Thane of Cowdor. Wh see in this scene that she has great ambition for herself and her husband, Shalt be what thou art promised, yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o’th’milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way”. She believes that Macbeth will be king but is worried that he is to soft to sort it out for himself. As Lady Macbeth feels that her husband is too soft and honest to do the deed she believes that she must talk all the goodness out of him in order for him to be ready.

“That I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valour of my tongue all that impedes thee from the golden round, which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem to have thee crowned withal”. Here I learn that she is so ambitious for Macbeth that she is willing to talk all the goodness out of him so gives me the impression that she is a cruel woman. During the scene a messenger visits Lady Macbeth and brings her the news of the king staying at their castle for the night. This news is astonishing to Lady Macbeth and can hardly believe it as she was just thinking about Macbeth being king, “Thou’rt mad to say it”.

This shows that she is already imagining the murder of the king and Macbeth being crowned. Lady Macbeth feels that she doesn’t want to be a woman for the night so she can be evil enough for what she is planning. “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toefull of direst cruelty, make thick my blood, Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse that no compunctious visitings of nature shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between th’ effect and it”. She doesn’t want to feel guilty for the evil things she is planning. “Come to my womens breasts and take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers, wherever in your sightless substances. She wants to be capable of masculine violence and lack of feeling.

Act 1 scene 7

In this scene we see Macbeths decision not to kill Duncan changed by L Macbeth. Macbeth doesn’t want to go ahead with the plan for a number of reasons,

1. The Consequences, “If th’ assassination could trammel up the consequence and catch with his sucrease, success, that but this blow might be the be-all and the end-all-here, But here, upon this bank shoal of time, We’d jump the life to come”.

2. Feeling Guilty, “This Duncan hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet tonged against the damnation of his taking off”.

Macbeth explains to L Macbeth that they are not going through with the murder of the King. “We will proceed no further in this business”. Lady Macbeth doesn’t take to this decision very kindly and is soon to persuade him to change his mind. I noticed that she uses a number of techniques to change his mind. She uses emotional blackmail; “From this time, such I account thy love”. She continues by insulting his masculine pride, “When you durst do it, then you were a man. And to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man”. By doing all this to persuade Macbeth either shows she loves him dearly or is an extremely evil women.

L Macbeth continues further by explaining her own ability to see things through if she had sworn to carry them out, “Nor time, nor place did then adhere, and yet you would make both. They have made themselves and that their fitness now does unmake you. I have given suck and know how tender tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this. She is telling Macbeth that she has breastfed a baby and if promised that she would kill it she would even though she loved it. From this quotation I have learned that Lady Macbeth once possessed a baby. There is no evidence to say what happened to the baby, if it had died this might have had an effect on both L Macbeth and Macbeth maybe the answer to why Lady Macbeth is acting so ruthless and nasty.

She continues to bombard Macbeth with reasons for carrying out the murder with her foil proof plan. “Whereto the rather shall his day’s hard journey soundly invite him, his two chamberlains will I with wine and wassail so convince that memory, the warder of the brain, shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason a limbeck only. When in swinish sleep Their drenched natures lie as in a death, what cannot you and I perform upon Th’ unguarded Duncan? What not put upon his spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt of our great quell?” She explains to Macbeth that she will get Duncan servants drunk so they wont know what is going on and when they are asleep they can do what they like to Duncan and blame it on the servants. This has convinced Macbeth to carryout what they have pre-meditated. Lady Macbeth is very important here as Macbeth, who carries out the murder, decides not to do it before lady Macbeth can persuade him otherwise.

Act 2 scene 2

This scene is important when analysing the actions of Macbeth after the murder has been carried out. We see Macbeth go to pieces after the crime has been committed. Lady Macbeth has to cover up for her husband, as he has not carried out the job efficiently. “Methought I heard a voice cry, sleep no more, Macbeth does murder sleep,” Macbeth at this point is in tatters and cannot think straight. L Macbeth tries to calm her husband down, “These deeds must not be thought after these ways, so it will make us mad”.

She is telling Macbeth not to think about such weird things.

Macbeth is so ashamed of what he has done he flees from the murder scene still with the weapons, the daggers, when they are suppose to be planted on the servants so they are framed for the murder. Lady Macbeth demand Macbeth to return to the scene and finish what he has begun, “why did you bring these daggers from the place? They must lie there. Go carry them and smear the sleepy servants with blood”. Macbeth is to scared as all he can think about is what he has done, so Lady Macbeth carries the daggers back “Give me the daggers the sleeping and the dead are but as pictures, ill gild the faces of the servants withal, for it must seem their guilt”.

Lady Macbeth feels no guilt after taking the daggers and smearing the servants with Duncan’s blood; “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white. A little water clears us of this deed”.

The next morning when Duncan’s death has been exposed Lady Macbeth faints, this is to distract attention from Macbeth so the truth is not revealed.

Lady Macbeth has been crucial in this scene without her keeping a cool head and being quick-witted Macbeth wouldn’t have got away with the murder. The scene shows that without his wife Macbeth would not have succeeded.

Act 3 Scene 4

During act 3 scene 4 Macbeth learns that Banquo has been successfully murdered but his son Fleance escapes. He is pleased to hear of Banquo’s death but when he is told about Fleance escaping. He sees him as a threat when he grows older. Macbeth then suddenly breaks down in front of his guests believing that he can see the ghost of Banquo sitting in his chair. He begins talking to himself which is a sign of madness, “Here had we now our country’s honour roofed, were the graced person of our Banquo present, Who may I rather challenge for unkindness than pity for mischance”. Here Macbeth believes he would be in the most honoured place in the country if Banquo were there. The guest at the banquet begin questioning Macbeths unusual behaviour, “what is that moves your highness”. Lenox asks the King what is bothering him. Lady Macbeth once again comes to his savour, “Upon a thought he will again be well. If much you note him you shall offend him and extend his passion”. She tells Lenox he will be ok in a minute but will get worse if a fuss is made.

Lady Macbeth tries to make her husband behave sensibly, as all the guests are becoming curious and suspicious towards his behaviour. “O proper stuff! This is the very painting of your fear, this is the air drawn dagger which you said led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts, impostors to true fear, would well become a women’s story at a winters fire authorised by her grandam. Shame itself! Why do you make such faces? When all’s done you look you look but on a stool”. She tells Macbeth that it’s all rubbish and that he is seeing things when it’s only a chair. This has no evail and eventually Lady Macbeth is forced to ask the guests to leave as the King is not feeling very well, when he is behaving very strangely. “I prey you speak not, he grows worse and worse. At once good night. Stand not upon the order of your going, but do at once”. Lady Macbeth asks them rather then leaving in order of importance as would be expected but for all to leave at once.

This is not the first time and again Lady Macbeth has shown to be the stronger of the two and been important in covering up for Macbeth once again.

Act 5 Scene 1

The banquet scene (Act 3 Scene 4) is the last time that we see Lady Macbeth being strong. By the end of the play we see the positions of the two characters been reversed, Macbeth being strong and Lady Macbeth being weak and full of guilt. We know this from the sleepwalking scene. A doctor and gentlewomen are observing Lady Macbeth, where she has gone crazy. She is sleepwalking and talking in her sleep about the murders that she has been involved in: Duncan’s, Lady Macduff’s and Banquo’s.

She has become tortured with guilt and is revealing the night of the murder. “Out damned spot! Out, I say! What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power of account”? She is trying to wash spots of imaginary blood from her hands. She also believes it doesn’t matter if people know what they have done, as they are king and queen and may do as they please.

If I look back to act 2 scene 2 where L Macbeth returns from finishing there plan she said to Macbeth “we’ll wash our hands to be innocent of the murder”. During act 5 scene 1 Lady Macbeth has the opposite to say. “Here’s the smell of the blood still- all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”. This is a contrast of what she said in act 2 scene 2 and shows that guilt and remorse has finally caught up with her.

This scene must make the audience reconsider Lady Macbeth’s character as she now shows guilt and that she has feelings and is not all evil and nasty.

She is now not as strong and free from guilt as she first appeared.


I can conclude the essay by saying that Lady Macbeth is a very important person in the play. She changes Macbeth’s mind in the killing of Duncan when he told her he was to have nothing to do with murdering him. “We will proceed no further in this business”. She covers up for Macbeth on a number of occasions where he would almost certainly have given himself away as the Killer of King Duncan. Lady Macbeth is not as strong and fearless as she would have liked to have been and finally succumbs to guilt and remorse for the bad things she has been involved in.

She finally gives the secret of Duncan’s death away whilst sleepwalking and furthers by killing herself when overcome by guilt. We are told from Malcolm that Lady Macbeth, Fiend like queen, “by self and violent hands took of her life”. We are told earlier in the play, Act 1 scene 7 that Lady Macbeth breast fed a baby which tells me that she once had a child of her own but hear no more off it during the play, maybe the baby died and Lady Macbeth never overcome sorrow and depression. She may have changed this depression into ambition and forward drive for Macbeth to become king.

Lady Macbeth is a very powerful female character, a challenging and non-stereotypical part for an actress.

From reading the play I have noticed many different methods of writing from Shakespeare.

Shakespeare uses a lot of imagery in the play. Goodness is like light and evil is like darkness. For example Act 1 scene 5 Lady Macbeth says they want their evil deeds hidden in darkness. “Come thick night and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wounds it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark. Macbeth Act 1 scene 4, “stars, hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires.

Evil is seen as a kind of disease. Writing about disease is another way for Shakespeare to talk about good and evil without overdoing the light and darkness imagery. Scotland is described as being sick under Macbeth’s rule, act 4 scene 3 Malcolm says that everyday “a gash is added to her wounds”. Even Macbeth recognises there is something wrong with Scotland and calls it a “disease”.

Sleep is also a sign of a clear conscience. Macbeth is upset about never being able to sleep again now he has killed Duncan, act 2 scene 2 “methought I heard a voice cry, sleep no more, Macbeth does murder sleep.”

Cite this page

What kind of woman is Lady Macbeth?. (2017, Oct 20). Retrieved from

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