Lady Macbeth Essay ResponseWatch
Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as a powerful figure from her very first appearance. She is immediately given a soliloquy, which structurally shows that she will be a key character in the rest of the play. The first impression a Jacobean audience would have of Lady Macbeth would most likely be a shocking one, as it was unlike the stereotypical woman of the time to have any power over a man. However, the power that Lady Macbeth has is not retained throughout the entirety of the play, and her power wades as the play continues.
On one hand, Lady Macbeth could be seen as the most powerful character in this play, which would be very unusual for a Jacobean audience to witness. We can see this from her imperative phrase of “Unsex me here”. Lady Macbeth is attempting to command the supernatural to remove her feminine traits and to be filled with “Direst cruelty”. The supernatural is a prominent theme in Macbeth, and Shakespeare immediately ensures that there is a connection with Lady Macbeth and evil by linking her to the supernatural. Her command directed towards the spirits is a showcase of the extent of power that she believes she has. This would be a shocking sight for the audience, but this could be what Shakespeare intended. He may have wanted to attack the stereotypes that many held dear to them by presenting the opposite side of women, who were seen as men’s possessions and feeble by many at the time of writing the play. Alternatively, Shakespeare may have created the powerful character of Lady Macbeth to pay tribute to Elizabeth the 1st, a great supporter of Shakespeare’s work who died a few years before the play was written. Alternatively, Lady Macbeth’s reliance on the supernatural could present her as a less powerful force than she perceives herself as. If she is truly a powerful woman, she would have all the power that she needs and would not have to ask an external force to “Unsex” her.
Lady Macbeth could also be seen as naive with her belief that she can control the spirits. After all, it is her naivety which is her fatal flaw, a key idea which the main characters in traditional tragedies will suffer from, that leads to her eventual suicide in Act 5. This naivety is continued after she convinces Macbeth to murder Duncan, which she does by attacking his manhood and asserting dominance over him. After this event occurred, Macbeth questions “Will all of great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hands” which Lady Macbeth responds to with “A little water clears us of the deed. How easy it is.” which not only shows her complete disrespect to the divine right of kings, another key idea in Jacobean society, but it also provides further evidence for her naivety. She believes that only “A little water” will be able to free Macbeth from the guilt of his regicide. This scene is heavily contrasted with Act 5 Scene 1, where we see Lady Macbeth obsessed on the idea of a spot, which is seen with the quote “Out damned spot!”. Even here she is attempting to assert dominance over her actions by demanding the removal of the spot, however she is unable to remove it. The spot represents the guilt that she is coming to terms with after convincing Macbeth to kill Duncan, and here she is completely powerless at removing it. This scene may have been intended by Shakespeare to provoke emotion from the audience and she is shouting on stage and coming to terms with her actions. However, this potential response from the audience will be short lived as this is the last scene that we see Lady Macbeth alive. A few scenes later, the stage direction “Cry of woman within” is the point which is soon revealed to be Lady Macbeth’s death. Her power is undermined here since she is one of the only characters to die off stage with an uncertain cause of death, which Shakespeare may have intended to symbolise the lack of power Lady Macbeth truly has.
Alternatively in Act 5 Scene 1, Lady Macbeth’s distressed state of mind may have been to show that the consequences of regicide will eventually befall on everyone, no matter who powerful they deem themselves to be. While she may have not initially felt any remorse towards her manipulation of Macbeth, it is very clear here that she regrets her decisions and may have wanted to change her actions. Her regret is so great that it led to her ultimate consequence of death. Shakespeare may therefore be saying that, no matter how powerful someone may appear to be, the consequences of regicide will be felt by all involved in due time. Lady Macbeth’s death may discourage the audience from attempting to overthrow the king, which at the time was James the 1st who already had to deal with an assassination attempt in the form of the gunpowder plot. This decision by Shakespeare may have not been selfless though; he knew that by supporting the current king, he would also benefit from it with popularity and money.
You need to talk about each of the quotations you include, the language and words used in them and the effect. It's good that you've got quotations in it, but you can't just plonk them in and leave them undiscussed. try to go into depth on the effect of the quotations that you've chosen x