We are studying Shakespeare’s famous play about the tragic down fall of a great hero. Macbeth. Macbeth was written during the Renaissance Period 1606-1611. I think it was written to show people that even the
greatest hero can become very weak and break down. You could also say it was written to show James I of England and VI of Scotland hatred and determination to drive out the species known as witches as witchcraft is the main theme of Macbeth. We could see Lady Macbeth as the embodiment of evil as she tricks, manipulates and deceives people and kills the people she’s close to, to get her husband a higher state. Lady Macbeth struggles when Macbeth is away fighting to stay a stereotypical Jacobean woman but to also gain power over the country. Her darker side starts to show when she tell Macbeth to kill several people as they stand in his way of getting his ambition of king, we know when her dark side comes out when she starts calling the spirits of the under world “Make thick my blood”, “And take my milk for gall” in this she is telling them to make her blood thick so she will be able to commit a murder. On the other hand Lady Macbeth paid for what she did in the end by going mad and finally dying.
Macbeth was written during the Renaissance Period. At this time in history it was Jacobean times, these were when men were usually away fighting, men were the only ones that were educated women weren’t seen as anything else but people who had babies and stayed at home. At this time men were seen as superior to women, women were seen as submissive, and inferior regardless to their class or wealth. However at this time James I of England and VI of Scotland was king, and he led a personal crusade against the practice of witchcraft. When he became king, Scotland lagged behind England in the culling of witches, during his reign over 8,000 witches were killed in Scotland. People believed greatly in the Bible and in it, it said that women should look after the children, care for their husbands, cook and clean the house but if they didn’t do all of these tasks they were seen as incapable of being a wife, they were basically seen as no good. This means that they didn’t belong in the Garden of Eden as Adam (Macbeth) was tempted into sin by Eve (Lady Macbeth) and with this God said that men should rule over women. This is linked with the themes with Macbeth as Lady Macbeth tempts him into evil.
Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s relationship is seen as a normal Jacobean relationship but in reality Lady Macbeth is the one who orders her husband around. They act like a normal stereotypical Jacobean couple, when they have guests they make sure the castle is tidy to try and hide their real home life. Lady Macbeth stays at home while Macbeth is away fighting. The themes of love and marriage is shown when Macbeth first returns home from fighting, Lady Macbeth gives him a kiss but as soon as the subject of the witches prophecies comes up their relationship turns sour and Lady Macbeth takes over the role of wearing the ‘trousers’. When they are talking about the witches Lady Macbeth’s mind quickly turns to killing king Duncan, and the themes ‘love’ and ‘marriage’ slowly deteriorates. It becomes an obsession with Lady Macbeth to kill king Duncan and to add another title to her name, she vows to “murder Duncan while he is staying with them”, here she is urging Macbeth to follow his ambition of becoming king sooner rather than later. Us the audience can plainly see L Macbeth is superior to her husband.
When writes to his wife telling her about what has happened and he tells her about the three witches’ prophecies her reaction is to help him achieve his ambition by murdering the one person who stood in his way… King Duncan. To ensure the prophecies come true she contacts the spirits of the underworld “Come, you spirits, that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here” by this she wants to become a man, she wants to have everything that makes her a woman taken away so she can act, and think like a man, and be strong like a man so she won’t feel guilty about killing someone. Lady Macbeth’s language throughout the play is very harsh she uses negative language “The raven himself is a hoarse” this is a negative symbol of death, she uses this when she is calling the spirits of the underworld. Lady Macbeth’s choice of soliloquies while she is speaking to the spirits of the underworld are very dramatic, we start to see her evil side coming through “Come to my woman’s breasts, and take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers” her evil side is definitely showing and we can see her trying to help her husband by having all her female organs “breasts” taken away and become a man.
Following this Lady Macbeth cruelly insults her husband by calling him a coward, Lady Macbeth does this by using Rhetorical Questions, she does this by calling him weak trying to undermine his reasons for backing out of the murder of the king. The questions she fires at him are “ was the hope drunk when you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?” by firing these at him she isn’t giving him time to answer and saying he isn’t up to being a man, and that he gave her false hopes by not keeping his word. While firing these at her aim is to make him feel guilty and to make him angry so he’ll want to prove himself to her, make him prove he’s strong, valiant and go and kill him like he was going to in the first place. The effect it has on Macbeth is that he feels he has to prove himself to his wife so he kills Duncan to prove he is still a strong, valiant fighter. At the beginning Macbeth holds the balance of their relationship as Lady Macbeth is a normal Jacobean wife but as soon as she reads about the witches prophecies the tables turn and all the power of the relationship falls onto her. We know this as she increasingly pressures her husband to do what she tells him… to murder king Duncan and achieve a sense of power. Lady Macbeth achieves this goal by manipulating him to get him angry and make him want to commit a murder to prove he is a man and show his wife he can take the strain of being a king, and maybe doing it out of love to make her love him by doing what she says. In the play Lady Macbeth choice of language is very violent as she starts to compare different situations from his to hers, “Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out” Lady Macbeth starts to compare that if she promised Macbeth that she would kill a child then she would see it through, she makes him feel guilty that he is breaking his promise to her. At this point in the play I think her motives were to make him angry so that he would prove her wrong and kill Duncan and take his title. I think her motives were fuelled by genuine desire to help her husband as she ahs nothing to gain or loose from him killing him. On the other hand she may be demonstrating her love for him as she know how much he wants to be king so she helps him achieve this. However it may be the start of her evil side starting to come through by telling her husband to murder to get what he wants, manipulating deceiving him to do as he’s told. The themes fate and freewill are very important as in those days people believed that your fate was mapped out for you even before you were born. The theme free will applies to the play as it means you aren’t forced into anything, you do it off your own ‘back’ this is linked with the play as Macbeth was manipulated into killing Duncan by his wife and you choose your own destiny.
While tackling Macbeth’s reasons about not killing Duncan she makes a reference to a baby, by saying “Have plucked my nipple its from boneless gums and dashed its brains out” the reference she makes is a negative one, as us the audience do not no whether she is telling the truth or deliberately saying it to make Macbeth feel guilty. It is kept vague, as she doesn’t want to show her husband she is weak and give him all the power again. Her speech is shown with dedication to her husband as she is describing to her she loves him that much she would never give him false hopes or false promises. Her speech to persuade him to kill Duncan is that of a desperate woman to try to help her husband, she uses her own ‘history’ to make him think about what his will say. Her speech starts off positively by her describing her “babe” as a normal baby who was beautiful, but her language turns nasty she uses violent language like “dashed its brains out” which means she would kill her own baby for her husband. This means that she is an unsuitable mother, as any normal woman wouldn’t think about killing her baby, as a woman’s main function in life is to produce heirs to carry on the family name. Lady Macbeth goes against this by saying she would kill the baby she longed for, for her husband if he told her to.
The morning after they committed the deed, Duncan has been discovered by Lennox, when Macbeth is told of this he acts shocked whereas Lady Macbeth faints; I think the audience will see this as a way of taking all the attention off who killed Duncan and to make people think she is truly shocked and distraught by his murder. I think this as she describes Duncan as “sleeping Duncan reminded her of her father” maybe she’s acting for the other people to show she isn’t strong and is weak in her body and mind to show she is a conventional woman and can be ‘broken’.
I think that in some ways you can say that Lady Macbeth is a conventional woman as she is putting everything on the line for her husband’s happiness she urges for him to go for what he wants and not to hold back. I think she loves him so much that she will help him get his goal of being king in whatever way she can. Lady Macbeth is a very persuasive woman when she hears about the witches’ predictions she wants to help her beloved husband to get a higher state sooner rather than later on in his life. On the other hand she defiantly can be seen as the embodiment of evil as she manipulates Macbeth into killing the king but when he tells her the witches predicted Banquo’s sons would become king there after she tell him to kill his best friend to stop that for ever happening. Macbeth is then paid a visit by Banquo’s ghost while hosting a banquet, which makes Macbeth get scared that his secret will be found out. Lady Macbeth is the strong person in their relationship but nearer the end she starts to hallucinating spots of Duncan’s blood on her hands, which could also fall on her side of being a conventional woman that can’t always be strong. I think she did it out of love for her husband and that she got what she deserved in the end.