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Report Thread starter 9 months ago
Lady Macbeth
The very first time we are introduced to Lady Macbeth she is already plotting Duncan’s murder, after having read Macbeth’s letter the conclusion she comes to is that Duncan must die. However, she knows and acknowledges that Macbeth is too weak and too kind to go ahead with it saying, “thy nature, it is too full of the milk of human kindness”, in the Jacobean period for a women to criticise her husband would have been totally unacceptable, and by criticising Macbeth’s kindness she demonstrates her own cruelness and heartlessness. The word milk has connotations of innocence, purity and gentleness, all of which Lady Macbeth wants to be rid of resulting in her turning to the evil spirits asking them to “unsex” her. She wants to remove all her female qualities so that she won’t be troubled by compassional guilt or any other female trait that might deter her from killing Duncan and obtaining the crown, demonstrating her ambition. She continues to embody masculine characteristics in the pursuit of power whilst defying “The great chain of being” – a belief held by people in the Jacobean period where the king was thought to be the most important man on Earth. She even prepares herself to deal with Macbeth and any objections he might have by saying she will have to use “the valour of my tongue”. The synecdoche of “tongue” suggests that her words are her true source of power which mirrors the witches and their spells, in addition the word “valour” adds to the sense of her tongue having power.
Through Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s dialogue we gain a deeper insight into their relationship. Differences in the characteristics of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are evident in their forms of greeting. Macbeth greets his wife saying “My dearest love”, this shows that Macbeth genuinely loves his wife, on the other hand Lady Macbeth greets him with the joy of recognizing the power of his new titles, both present and future “Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor, Greater than both by the all-hail hereafter”, illustrating her greed and lust for power. She uses many imperative verbs in her speech such as “come”, “take” and “stop” suggesting she is the more dominant individual in the marriage, this is supported by the way in which she talks to her husband calling him “Infirm of purpose!”, their relationship contradicts what a relationship in the 16th century would have been like – the husband would be at the forefront of everything and the wife would be there to support him which would have served to make the play and also Lady Macbeth a more interesting character.
Shakespeare uses contrast between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to emphasise certain aspects of her personality. In contrast to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is completely guided by her desire to gain self-profit. When she sees that Macbeth is close to rejecting the idea of regicide, she decides to play on his weaknesses. She uses a hyperbole to display her bravery by saying that she is capable to have "plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out". During the era in which Macbeth was written it was believed that babies who were not breastfed were far more likely to die so she imagines herself murdering the child by refusing to feed it, the horrific and graphic imagery demonstrates her determination and portrays her heartless and merciless. She purposely uses this exaggeration to juxtapose her own qualities with those of Macbeth implying that Macbeth is less manly than she is, thus pushing him into committing the crime to prove his masculinity. She even goes as far as to challenge Macbeth's masculinity directly: "when you durst do it, then you were a man". This shows how Lady Macbeth can be very manipulating to get what she wants which links her to the witches as they too manipulate Macbeth into causing chaos across Scotland. One could even say Lady Macbeth is central to all the events that happen in Macbeth because without her Macbeth might never have had the courage to commit regicide. By structuring the play in this way Shakespeare is trying to imply that women can be as ambitious and cruel as men, but social constraints deny them the means to pursue these ambitions on their own.
Through Lady Macbeth’s speech we can also learn a lot about her character, she tells Macbeth to “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it”, reflecting the theme of reality and appearances. This again, is a quote that can be used to link Lady Macbeth to the witches who in act 1 scene 1 say “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” illustrating how nothing is ever entirely as it appears to be. Shakespeare does this deliberately to demonstrate how the witches aren’t the only source of evil in this play, after all Lady Macbeth plays a big role in convincing Macbeth to commit regicide even after the witches have tempted him with the prospects of being king. Additionally during the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder plot King James 1 was awarded with a medal that presents a serpent hiding beneath a flower, Guy Fawkes was trying to disrupt The great chain of being which is exactly what is happening here in the play, this link ultimately presents her as villainous and suggests that maybe Lady Macbeth deserves to meet with the same fate Fawkes did which would have served to win him favour with King James I.
Her deceitfulness is emphasised through the way in which Shakespeare juxtaposes Act 1, scene 5 with scene 6. In scene 5 Lady Macbeth is set on murdering Duncan and is already planning how to do it whereas in scene 6 she is full of flattery for the king, “in every point twice done and then double”.
After Act 3 Lady Macbeth is absent from most of the play, Shakespeare does this to demonstrate how she has lost her power, control and strength, this echoes what Lady Macbeth herself said “Nought’s had, all’s spent”. Just as ambition affects her more strongly than Macbeth before the crime, so does guilt plague her more strongly afterward. In Act 5, Scene 1 we find her sleepwalking. “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” she says frantically trying to wash imaginary spots of blood off of her hands, this sharply contrasts with her line in Act 2, Scene 2 “A little water clears us of this deed.” The word “little” belittles their crime and shows how little an effect it has had on her which in the moment was entirely opposite to Macbeth. In literature sleep is associated with innocence, which is not something we associate with Lady Macbeth, hence the sleepwalking. Whilst awake we aren’t able to see the more sensitive side to Lady Macbeth however whilst sleeping we can see just how much the murders have truly overwhelmed her conscience, which again links her to the witches and their double meanings and realities. The word “damned” has associations with hell, and this is a woman who is not going to find any sanctuary in heaven because of her actions, more specifically: regicide - which was, in essence, killing the person who god had chosen out of everybody else to be the king (The divine right of kings). Shakespeare may have created this bloodthirsty character to steer his audience away from regicide attempts against King James I, cautioning them that they too would be overtaken by the inevitable fate that would overwhelm them
Throughout the entire play Lady Macbeth is portrayed as being evil, cruel and heartless not only through her words but also through her actions, for example: she plots the murder of the king. However, by the close of the play, she has been reduced to sleepwalking through the castle and inevitably suicide signalling her total inability to deal with the weight of their crimes. This tells us despite her outward firm appearance she is sensitive to things such as committing murder, which, one final time links her to the witches’ chant “fair is foul, and foul is fair” illustrating things are never entirely as they seem.
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Report 9 months ago
Pretty good. Thoughtful and developed in places. There are moments when the analysis is a little vague. Be careful of sweeping statements when you're discussing context. Your grammar and punctuation could improve. I'd have this at 22+2 which is, broadly, a 6.

I've attached a document which, I would suggest, could improve it to, broadly, a grade 9.

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