Essay, Research Paper: Macbeth Characters

Shakespeare: Macbeth

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In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is made to act as a catalyst in Lord
Macbeth’s evildoings. Even though Lord Macbeth is generally the one to have
the final say in the many killings that take place in the play, Lady Macbeth
plays the role of a tyrannical villain alongside him. She mocks her Lord if he
frets over something she has instructed him to do, saying he would be less of a
man if he does not follow through on their plan (I. vii. 56-57). She gives Lord
Macbeth a short lecture in deceptiveness when they are planning to kill King
Duncan (I. vi. 73-78). She also prepared the daggers for Macbeth to kill Duncan
in advance (II. ii. 15-16). Though her Lord was still having doubts, she was, in
the most literal sense, ready to go in for the kill. Clearly demonstrating
another villainous characteristic other than self- gain, Lady Macbeth shows the
fear of getting caught when she unintentionally gives herself away in her sleep
(V. i. 33, 37-42, 44-47, 53-55, 65-67, 69-72). Though her fear can suppress
itself during a conscious state of being, she can do nothing about it when she
is asleep. Throughout the play and leading up to her eventual suicide, Lady
Macbeth slowly weakens. Yet, in the beginning of the play, she acts as if she is
unstoppable. When Macbeth has his doubts and fears about murdering the loyal
Duncan, Lady Macbeth chastises him, calling him everything from a coward to a
helpless baby (I. vii. 39-49, 53-67). She even offers to do it herself, possibly
to make Macbeth feel that he’s even more cowardly because a woman is offering
to do “his” job. This pushes Macbeth to kill, though these are the actions
that will eventually lead to both of their demises later in the play. Macbeth
tries to convince Lady Macbeth, as well as himself, that she is wrong: 3 Prithee,
peace. I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares more is none. (I. vii.
50-52) However, Macbeth does not seem to fully convince her, because he is still
mocked by his wife. Whether he failed to convince himself or to convince his
Lady is irrelevant; he went through with the murder anyhow. Not only does Lady
Macbeth push her husband to do things he does not want to, but she also informs
him that his face is too easy to read. Of course, she does not want her husband
or herself to get caught, so she gives him advice in the area of deceptiveness.
When she tells him to “look like th’ innocent flower,/ But be the serpent
under ‘t” (I. vi. 76-78), not only is she doing this so that Macbeth will
not give himself away, but so that he will not give her away in the meantime.
Even before that early point in the play, Lady Macbeth has already demonstrated
that she is two-faced. When Duncan first arrives at the castle, Lady Macbeth
acts as a welcome hostess, when in reality she has different plans for Duncan
than she lets on. Through the careful use of chastisement, Lady Macbeth manages
to manipulate her Lord so that she may get what she wants: a dead King Duncan in
her house. Indeed, Lady Macbeth does get what she wants, and ultimately what she
deserves, as the play progresses. Usually, though she has to nudge her husband a
bit before he takes action, Macbeth is relatively obedient. Lady Macbeth seems
to realize that her husband probably will not go through with the murder of
Duncan until she pushes him to the point of no return, so she prepares
everything in advance. All Macbeth has to do for 4 his part in the murder is
actually kill Duncan; Lady Macbeth sets out the daggers and gives the guards
enough alcohol so that they pass out. She was so eager to have Duncan dead that
she almost killed him herself. “Had he not resembled/ My father as he slept, I
had done ‘t” (II. ii. 16-17). Yet she still had her husband commit the
crime, whether it was because she was actually scared to do so, or because she
wanted him to feel empowered. Either way, Lady Macbeth was definitely ready for
Duncan to die. Despite her eagerness earlier in the play, Lady Macbeth seems a
bit afraid that she might get caught later in the play. When she sleepwalks and
talks in her sleep, she demonstrates a fear that clearly represents the fact
that she is scared of being caught. She talks of going to bed and washing her
hands with the famous “Out, damned spot, out, I say!” (V. i. 37) phrase.
When she yells about ridding herself of Duncan’s blood, she is presenting a
metaphor: she does not truly want to be rid of Duncan’s blood itself, but
rather the fear and guilt that his murder has forced upon her. The constant
nightmares she has and the fear and guilt she must live will become too much;
she commits suicide, proving once again that she is a tyrannical villain because
she cannot deal with the repercussions of her actions. As a result of her
actions and the actions of her husband, Lady Macbeth meets an untimely demise at
the end of the play. Yet most of what happened was due to Lady Macbeth’s
doings. If she had not pushed Lord Macbeth so hard to do something that he did
not originally want to do, then Duncan would have lived and Lady Macbeth would
not have gone through such anguish. She was too eager to kill; she seemed to be
only interested in her own personal gain and possibly her husband’s gain,
because she couldn’t 5 have had one without the other. All in all, Lady
Macbeth is the quintessential tyrannical villain who was bent on winning, but in
the end she ultimately lost.
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