Murder changes people

In Act 1, Lady Macbeth is more than ready to be Queen. She is afraid that Macbeth “Is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” to commit murder (1.5. 15). She comes up with a plan to convince him saying “I may pour my spirits in thine ear/ And chastise with the valour of my tongue” (1.5.24-25). Lady Macbeth is so determined that she is willing to manipulate Macbeth to get what she wants. She begs the spirits to “unsex me here” so she can develop the masculine qualities of courage and rhetoric (1.5.39). She starts to get upset when Macbeth seems to be backing out of their plan. She questions his manhood and courage stating “Wouldst thou have that?/ Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,/ And live a coward in thine own esteem,/ Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’,/ Like the poor cat I’th adage”(1.7.41-44)? When he questions if they will fail, she responds “But screw your courage to the sticking-place” (1.7.60).  

               Macbeth, through all of this, struggles with his morals and his ambition to be king. He finally agrees after much convincing from Lady Macbeth but does not go willingly. He states “False face must hide what the false heart doth know” (1.7.82). Macbeth will pretend to know nothing of the murder and assume his role as king. He starts to lose it a bit seeing ghosts and visions of daggers and hearing things. Lady Macbeth remains composed and even when the murder happens and Macbeth accidently takes the daggers away from the murder scene, Lady Macbeth is the one to go back and smear the blood of the accused servants. She keeps it together even as Macbeth sees Banqou’s ghost at a dinner party. She plays it off like this is normal King behavior and that they should be excused and not asked questions.

               Despite Macbeth being insane, he gains confidence, although still suspicious of everyone around him. He begins to think he is invincible while Lady Macbeth begins to foil him completely. The two characters have switched mindsets. When Macbeth departs for the battlefield, Lady Macbeth has indeed gone crazy. She has a doctor and gentlewoman watch her. She rubs her hands together furiously out of guilt, to get rid of the blood that she sees. “Out, damned spot: out, I say. One, two,-why,/ then ‘tis time to do’t. Hell is murky”(5.1.30-31). She eventually cannot deal with the guilt and kills herself. Macbeth doesn’t really care to much about her death saying “she should have died hereafter” (5.5.17). I think it is interesting to see the strange relationship where control and sanity is passed around. Perhaps if Lady Macbeth and Macbeth had the same consciences at the same time, Duncan never would have been killed or they both would have killed themselves together. If guilt is what drives someone into insanity, than ambition must be what pulls someone out of it.

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2 thoughts on “Murder changes people

  1. burnettd1

    I agree that it appears like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth switch roles from the beginning of the play to the end of the play. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth was more hesitant to murder Duncan than Lady Macbeth was. Lady Macbeth was more concerned with being Queen than she was with Duncan’s life and the consequences of murdering him. However, Macbeth was much more fearful of killing Duncan. He had second thoughts about murdering him, but Lady Macbeth kept diminishing his manhood for his doubt, which caused him to murder Duncan.

    After the murder, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s attitudes changed. Lady Macbeth felt more guilt about killing Duncan. Although she appeared stronger than her husband, she couldn’t handle the guilt of murdering the man. She covered for the actions that Macbeth had throughout the play, but in the end, she could not live with the idea of murdering Duncan. At the end of the play, Lady Macbeth was sleepwalking and kept trying to wipe her hands off from the blood that she caused others. Lady Macbeth committed suicide at the end of the play due to guilt and shame.

    Throughout the play, Macbeth was having flashbacks of the murders he has committed. He saw the ghost of Banquo, which shows how much shame he had about killing him. As the play continued to progress, Macbeth began to gain confidence. He stood behind his actions of murdering the men. Macbeth became more cold-hearted and seemed to not even care about the death of his wife. In the end, Macbeth was murdered for his actions.

    The change in attitudes between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth were ironic. I would have never expected Lady Macbeth to feel more guilt about the murders than Macbeth did. In the end, both of these characters’ lives ended in death due to their actions.

    Reply
  2. alexhammer92

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post , I agree with what you said concerning the role reversal between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as the play progressed, Lady Macbeth does experience great regret after the death of Duncan. Do you think Shakespeare may be saying something about the nature of women through this sudden reversal in Lady Macbeth’s character?

    Reply

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