GCSE English Lit MacbethWatch
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How far you think Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as an ambitious woman with influence over her husband.
Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as an ambitious woman with influence over her husband, in order to criticise the jacobean society’s view of females but also to show that those who plot against the king, will not be successful, to help protect King James.
Firstly one way that Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as an ambitious woman with influence over her husband is by demanding the witches to replace her feminine characteristics of ‘milk’ with ‘gall’ in her soliloquy. During this era, many people, maily women, were accused of witchcraft and so by Lady Macbeth being in contact with the witches, instantly shows that she is different to society’s views of women who are supposed to be inferior to men. ‘Milk’ which aids the growth of babies and supports life contrasts with the noun ‘gall’ which connotes evil and bitterness and it leads to death. By asking to ‘unsex’ herself, she demands her change from a typical delicate and loving woman to a vile and ruthless man to be the cause of King Duncan’s death. Powered by her ambition, she encourages her husband in the regicide, and so it is evident that she is an ambitious woman with influence over husband.
Another way the Lady Macbeth is presented as an ambitious woman with influence over her husband, is through the way that she treats her husband. In act 1, Scene 2, Macbeth is praised as a ‘brave’ warrior, and is respected by the king. In the Jaceobbean era, brave men, who were great at fighting ,were heroic and so by Macbeth being promoted to being the thane of Cawdor, because of his performance, he comes across as powerful and manly, Later in Act 1, once Lady Macbeth has her plan to kill duncan, she worries that macbeth is ‘ too full o’th’milk of human kindness’ She thinks that Macbeth is too innocent and kind to kill the kind. Lady Macbeth makes this clear when she pressures Macbeth,’when you durst do it, then you were a man’ . By stripping off his masculinity and pride, Lady Macbeth is shown to be influential and more powerful than her husband, who she controls like her child, all powered by her ambition for power. This contrasts to the beginning where Macbeth was praised for his heroism and bravery.
Also, another way that Lady Macbeth is shown to be influential over her husband is when they consult about the regicide and their plan. Lady Macbeth tells her husband to ‘look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under’ She is encouraging him to be two-faced: warmly greet the king like ‘an innocent flower’. This so that they are not suspected and
Later in the play, the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth take a full turn. Lady Macbeth was an ambitious woman who controlled her husband, which was the opposite of how women should have been in the Jacobean era. Men had the dominant role and women were expected to cook and clean and so the audience would not have approved of her behaviour. She then drives herself mad, overpowered by her and her husbands’ ambition, she behaves like a child, who needs people to watch her. Her guilt conscience makes her believe that her hands are covered in blood and even ‘all the perfumes of arabia will not sweeten this little hand’. Scared and paranoid that they’ll be caught. However Macbeth, who at first was unsure about the regicide, went on to kill many more, even his close friend Banquo. At this point it is clear that Lady Macbeth is no longer ambitious or has influence over husband, but her actions at the beginning led to her state. Shakespeare did this to threaten those who planned on plotting to the king, as it reflected the gunpowder plot. It goes to show that they will not only be successful, but they will ruin their lives.
Overall, Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as an ambitious woman with influence over her husband through her over-ambition before King Duncan came to stay at the Macbeth’s house, through her treatment of her husband, Macbeth, and through her guilt, taking over her mind, later on in the play. Her actions are significant as it shows to the audience that no one should attempt to plot against the King.