A Play where the Women Rule

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play where the women overpower the men. In most of his plays the women are either background characters or are relegated to rather weak women that are only there to die, be good wives, or to backstab. With Macbeth, Shakespeare gives us some of his most developed female characters and gives them each a bunch of layers to make them real.
Who starts Macbeth’s need for power? The witches and his wife. If it were not for the witches then he would never even have the thought of kingship in his head. They are what put everything into motion. They are ambiguous in the play – are they good, bad, or neither? If they did not exist, would Macbeth still go on a conquest to become king? That is a question that is never answered.
More so than the witches, Lady Macbeth is the driving force of the play. She is the one who puts the idea into Macbeth’s head to kill the current king. She is not afraid to call him out on his actions and she is a rather tough woman. After Macbeth kills the king, he cannot take anymore and forgets to place the evidence on the servants. Lady Macbeth speaks to her husband:
Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures. ‘Tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed
I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,
For it must seem their guilt (2.2.50-55).
She seems to be disappointed in her husband and instead of making him do it, she decides that she will plant the evidence instead. She talks to her husband as if he is weak and is not worth her time. She seems to be angry and when she is done she states, “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white,” (2.2.62-63). That is such a matter-of-the-fact thing to stay after planning a terrible murder of the king. She does not care at the deed she forced her husband to do. It is her fault that Macbeth becomes an evil and despicable human being.
I would say that Lady Macbeth is Shakespeare’s most developed and layered female character he ever wrote. I’ve read the entire play before and as it goes on she falls into insanity. She goes crazy because of her own actions and selfishness. She is the reason that Macbeth becomes who he is and she is the reason that the king is dead. Lady Macbeth is the catalyst of this entire play.

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2 thoughts on “A Play where the Women Rule

  1. hannahs

    While I agree that Lady Macbeth is an evil, cruel, and manipulative character, I don't think she is entirely to blame for the end point of the play. I don't want to take away any of the power she possesses over her husband, but Macbeth does have free will. The devil may be tempting but does she make the sinner sin? The same can really be said for the witches. yes, they have an amazing power that may or may not have started Macbeth on his spiral into madness, but it was he himself who allowed his thoughts to wander. Banquo felt the power of prophecy and he did not murder Scottish royalty to see his son be put on the throne. He chose to disregard it. Macbeth on the other hand with his free will fully intact chose to descend into madness and fall prey to the pressures of his wife. Lady Macbeth is one of my favorite characters because she is just so wonderfully wicked, but to put all the blame on her doesn't seem fair when Macbeth is the one who ordered the brutal assault on MacDuff's family. Throughout the play Macbeth makes his own decisions and keeps his will his own, even though he chooses to listen and bend to the will of the powerful female figures.

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  2. estaats

    I agree with you Lady Macbeth seems to be the powerhouse here. One more than one occasion it seems as if she's carrying the weight of both her and her husband. She seems to do all the dirty work that Macbeth isn't man enough to do. The humor in this play is that she has no shame, and she does not hesitate to let Macbeth know what a wimp she thinks he is. I certainly see Lady Macbeth as a strong, influential character in the play; something that Shakespeare doesn't usually do with women.

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