Lady Macbeth

Sam Montagna

Shakespeare II
Professor Mulready
23 April 2012
Lady Macbeth
In many of Shakespeare’s plays, women play a big role. However, usually, the women do not play the stereotypical role. Portia, Kate and Lady Macbeth do not fade behind their husbands but instead take control. Lady Macbeth, like Portia and Kate, is no different. She plays the stereotypical role to everyone except her husband. Macduff refers to her as “gentle lady” (2597.79). Macduff believes that Lady Macbeth is so gentle and good that she should not even hear about the murder. “Tis not for you to hear what I can speak/ The repetition in a woman’s ear/ Would murder as it fell”(2597.80-83). The reality is, at this point, she is the most evil and vindictive character in the play. She is even scarier than the Witches. While the idea to kill Duncan was already in Macbeth’s head when the Weird Sisters spoke the prophecy, Lady Macbeth coerced him into it. Macbeth is a moral person. He knows the king trusts him because he promoted him to Thane of Cawdor. The last thane betrayed the king so it is a huge honor for Macbeth to be the new thane. Macbeth is supposed to protect the king from harm. The king is not evil or bad. He is well liked and protected. There is no moral reason to kill the king other than Macbeth’s need for power to fulfill the prophecy. However, when it seems that Macbeth is questioning his plot to kill the king, Lady Macbeth forces her plan on him. She insists on killing the king. 
Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband. Macbeth is a moral thane and Lady Macbeth acts as if this is news to her. She asks where all the guilt came from. She calls him a “coward” (2590.43). She really goes under his skin. She even tells him that he “would/ Be so much more the man” (2590.50-51). She is a very ambitious woman and will not accept failure or doubt. When Macbeth is overcome after killing Duncan, Lady Macbeth takes the king’s blood onto her hands and finishes the job by setting up the guards. There is no doubt that Lady Macbeth is not squeamish and very convincing. The question is where does Lady Macbeth’s loyalty lie? Her loyalty definitely does not lie with the king. As soon as her husband got a promotion, she aimed to take him out. However, does that mean that she will want to take out her own husband to gain power? Or, if another man came along and accumulated power, would she align herself with him to kill her husband? Based on her actions, Lady Macbeth loves blood and power. Her family and servants are disposable. Lady Macbeth follows Shakespeare’s list of powerful women, however, her future is unclear. Macbeth is a tragedy. Will she be the one to cause the tragedy or fall to it?

3 thoughts on “Lady Macbeth

  1. Malissa Arjoon-Jerry

    I thought it was interesting also when Macduff believes that Lady Macbeth is a gentle person who death shouldn't be talked about in front of her. When in reality she is the mastermind behind the killing of Duncan. Not only Macbeth wants to feel power and be in control, but his wife also wants to do that and it's strange to see a female take on that role. We've seen in King Lear, when Lear's daughters wanted to control the kingdom and have power, but somehow this is different because you don't really see a wife having so much influence over her husband.

  2. Cyrus Mulready

    I really appreciate your attention to Lady Macbeth's duplicity, Sam. It's not often noted that she is a successful actor (as are many of Shakespeare's villains!) and that she achieves her evil ends through deceit. I wonder about one thing you wrote–how moral is Macbeth? It's true that Lady Macbeth is pretty coercive, but it doesn't seem that he needs to hard of a push, does it? I ask because it raises a central question in the play. How much of Macbeth's action is his own, and how much should be attributed to outside forces?

  3. Sammo Khan

    Interesting read! I thought it was important how you pointed out that Macbeth was an honest man and Lady Macbeth was the one more prone to evil. I totally agree with you and in their relationship we can also see how evil overcame good as Macbeth's honest and good nature turned evil with the assistance of his wife. This represents not only the battle between good and evil but also the battle within Macbeth himself. For Macbeth he fights his consciousness with the overpowering desire and greed for wealth and power against the "right" thing to do.


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