Join TSR now and get all your revision questions answeredSign up now
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    Right, I have to write an essay soon about `Shakespeare and the Literary Heritage`, and I want to write about Lady Macbeth's insanity. Basically, I need some ideas about what to write on her. So, when do you think Lady Macbeth is at her most sane and most insane?

    I'll start it off:

    Most Sane = When she's planning to kill King Duncan. Although the murder is not exactly normal, her careful planning and logical reasoning is probably the most sane she gets in Macbeth.

    Most Insane = When she says:

    I would, while it was smiling in my face,
    Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,
    And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you
    Have done to this

    It is the most gruesome thing anyone could say, and the way she chants it in iambic pentameter makes her sound like a witch, allowing us to compare with the ones in Act 1 Scene 1.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    Wow, it's been a few years since I looked at Macbeth, but some points to consider:

    Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are driven by their ambitious nature. Ultimately, I's say the root of Lady Macbeth's madness is her thirst for power. Before Macbeth himself even considers killing Duncan, she's already one step ahead of him and has the whole thing planned out. She is actually more ruthless, ambtious and stronger character than Macbeth ever was. At one point she says she wishes she were a man so she could kill Duncan herself -how violent!

    The raven himself is hoarse
    That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
    Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
    That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
    And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
    Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
    Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
    That no compunctious visitings of nature
    Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
    The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
    And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
    Wherever in your sightless substances
    You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
    And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
    That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
    Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
    To cry 'Hold, hold!'


    We see right from the start that she has a lot of characteristics that you could say are synonymous with the witches. In the above quote there's a lot of supernatural references. In the same way the witches have complete control over Macbeth, Lady Macbeth too has this complete control over her husband. She appears to manipulate him with relative ease into doing what she likes, which poses the question: who is really the more dangerous of the two, Mabeth or his wife? The play suggests that women can be just as bad and just as ambitious as men, but the social constraints of the time don't allow them to act upon this (nobody liked women then, I mean weren't even allowed to act in Shakespeare's plays never mind act on ambtion!)

    She manipulates Macbeth into committing the murder by trying to emasculate him. This strength of character she has, something associated with men, comes out in a strange form when she comforts Macbeth after his crime. She offers the feminine comfort of a woman but displays the strong will of a man. This sets up an interesting little contrast in her character, which you could relate back to her split personality in being the nice loving womanly caring wife and the manly calculated murderer.

    In the same way her ambition was stronger than Macbeth's, so too is her guilt, and the moment her conscience kicks in is when she begins her descent into madness. I'd say the moment she is at her most mad is when she's trying to wash her hands of the invisible blood stains. The guilt at being an indirect murderess has went to her head and she's literally seeing stuff. Despite her masculinity in her desire and violent streak her feminie sensitivity comes as a vital flaw and makes her realise her guilt. Once her guilt reaches a climax in this action of scrubbing her hands, she subsequently kills herself shortly afterwards.

    So, I'd probably say in my opinion that is her point of madness, but I'm not sure if there was ever really a point in the text where I'd describe her as fully sane. From the start she obviously had this underlying mad potential due to her serious ambition and desire for murder (I don't think any sane person would come away with a speech like that!) and it just came to light after her guilt.

    She's an interesting character in that respect. She has a supernatural quality about her like the witches, (perhaps Shakespeare is making a statement about women at that time in general here? It was mostly women that were accused of being witches back then, and they had an association with beign temptresses and suchlike. Other texts that refer to women as temptresses and having otherworldly qualities are Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Miller's The Crucible) she's manipulative and sly, she's got a lot of character contrasts and parallels going on (male/female, earthly/supernatural, genius/madness), she's scarily smart, she has everyone under her thumb...Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were your original power couple really, and despite her lower place in society as a woman, she was really the brains and power behind the operation, Macbeth was just a puppet really to both her and the witches. This poses another question: even when society deems otherwise, are women really the more dominant of the two? Was Lady Macbeth pretty much your Shakespearean equivalent of "girl power" as we know it today? Intersting points you could debate over!
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Panda124)
    Wow, it's been a few years since I looked at Macbeth, but some points to consider:

    Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are driven by their ambitious nature. Ultimately, I's say the root of Lady Macbeth's madness is her thirst for power. Before Macbeth himself even considers killing Duncan, she's already one step ahead of him and has the whole thing planned out. She is actually more ruthless, ambtious and stronger character than Macbeth ever was. At one point she says she wishes she were a man so she could kill Duncan herself -how violent!

    The raven himself is hoarse
    That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
    Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
    That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
    And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
    Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
    Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
    That no compunctious visitings of nature
    Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
    The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
    And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
    Wherever in your sightless substances
    You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
    And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
    That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
    Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
    To cry 'Hold, hold!'


    We see right from the start that she has a lot of characteristics that you could say are synonymous with the witches. In the above quote there's a lot of supernatural references. In the same way the witches have complete control over Macbeth, Lady Macbeth too has this complete control over her husband. She appears to manipulate him with relative ease into doing what she likes, which poses the question: who is really the more dangerous of the two, Mabeth or his wife? The play suggests that women can be just as bad and just as ambitious as men, but the social constraints of the time don't allow them to act upon this (nobody liked women then, I mean weren't even allowed to act in Shakespeare's plays never mind act on ambtion!)

    She manipulates Macbeth into committing the murder by trying to emasculate him. This strength of character she has, something associated with men, comes out in a strange form when she comforts Macbeth after his crime. She offers the feminine comfort of a woman but displays the strong will of a man. This sets up an interesting little contrast in her character, which you could relate back to her split personality in being the nice loving womanly caring wife and the manly calculated murderer.

    In the same way her ambition was stronger than Macbeth's, so too is her guilt, and the moment her conscience kicks in is when she begins her descent into madness. I'd say the moment she is at her most mad is when she's trying to wash her hands of the invisible blood stains. The guilt at being an indirect murderess has went to her head and she's literally seeing stuff. Despite her masculinity in her desire and violent streak her feminie sensitivity comes as a vital flaw and makes her realise her guilt. Once her guilt reaches a climax in this action of scrubbing her hands, she subsequently kills herself shortly afterwards.

    So, I'd probably say in my opinion that is her point of madness, but I'm not sure if there was ever really a point in the text where I'd describe her as fully sane. From the start she obviously had this underlying mad potential due to her serious ambition and desire for murder (I don't think any sane person would come away with a speech like that!) and it just came to light after her guilt.

    She's an interesting character in that respect. She has a supernatural quality about her like the witches, (perhaps Shakespeare is making a statement about women at that time in general here? It was mostly women that were accused of being witches back then, and they had an association with beign temptresses and suchlike. Other texts that refer to women as temptresses and having otherworldly qualities are Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Miller's The Crucible) she's manipulative and sly, she's got a lot of character contrasts and parallels going on (male/female, earthly/supernatural, genius/madness), she's scarily smart, she has everyone under her thumb...Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were your original power couple really, and despite her lower place in society as a woman, she was really the brains and power behind the operation, Macbeth was just a puppet really to both her and the witches. This poses another question: even when society deems otherwise, are women really the more dominant of the two? Was Lady Macbeth pretty much your Shakespearean equivalent of "girl power" as we know it today? Intersting points you could debate over!
    Wow, thanks a lot; I'll definitely be using some of these points when I come to write my essay!
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by danieljames468)
    Wow, thanks a lot; I'll definitely be using some of these points when I come to write my essay!
    Haha no problem, glad I could help! Not going to lie, I'm suprised I remembered that much of the play I'm Scottish, and I studied Macbeth for Standard Grade English (which I guess is the equivalent of GCSE). That was a couple of years ago now, I'm doing Advanced Higher now, which is roughly the equivalent of A-level.

    Any more questions regarding English then you know where I am!
 
 
 
Poll
Which pet is the best?
Useful resources

Make your revision easier

OMAM

Ultimate Of Mice And Men Thread

Plot, context, character analysis and everything in between.

Notes

Revision Hub

All our revision materials in one place

Love books

Common grammar and vocabulary problems

Get your questions asked and answered

Useful literary websitesStudy help rules and posting guidelines

Groups associated with this forum:

View associated groups

The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

Quick reply
Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.