I'd really appreciate some feedback on this sample essay as well as a predicted grade. I've included the question, extract and response. Thank you!
Macbeth Read the following extract from Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth and then answer the question that follows. At this point in the play, Macbeth has murdered Duncan and has returned to Lady Macbeth.
MACBETH: Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more:
Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
LADY MACBETH: What do you mean?
MACBETH: Still it cried, ‘Sleep no more’ to all the house;
‘Glamis hath murdered sleep’, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall sleep no more.
LADY MACBETH: Who was it, that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
You do unbend your noble strength to think
So brain-sickly of things. Go get some water
And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
They must lie there. Go carry them and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood.
MACBETH: I’ll go no more.
I am afraid to think what I have done;
Look on’t again, I dare not.
LADY MACBETH: Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures; ’tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil.
If he do bleed, I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,
For it must seem their guilt.
Starting with this conversation, explore how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Write about:
• how Shakespeare presents their relationship in this extract
• how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the play as a whole.
In Macbeth, a play which explores the disruption of natural relationships, Shakespeare uses the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to criticize patriarchy and to highlight the significance of equality in society.
In this extract, Lady Macbeth is presented as authoritative and dominating over her husband. Despite Macbeth having just killed Duncan, mainly on her suggestion, she is insisting further action from him to ‘go get some water’ and ‘go carry the daggers.’ The repetition of the imperative verbs ‘go’ emphasizes her control of the situation and her habitual subjugation of her husband. Through this, Shakespeare is exploring the subversion of 17th century gender stereotypes, which claimed women were supposed to be docile and submissive towards their husbands. However, Lady Macbeth is the antithesis of this model ‘wife’ coercing her husband at every opportunity. Shakespeare is criticizing the patriarchy, as in Jacobean England, the only way a woman could gain power was through her relationships with men, whether that be their father or their husband. It is this structure of society that has driven Lady Macbeth to manipulate her husband into obeying her commands, as that is the only way she can achieve power in society. The underlying message Shakespeare is trying to convey to the audience is that if the patriarchy is not abolished, then women will seek power through coercion and manipulative means.
Shakespeare also presents their relationship as unbalanced and unreciprocated. In this seen, Macbeth is seeking consolation and pacification from his wife, confiding in her the troublesome thoughts he has been having, such as, “I am afraid to think what I have done.” The use of the word ‘afraid’ highlights how guilt is now encroaching upon Macbeth, and in this moment, he has turned to his wife for reassurance. However, in response Lady Macbeth infantilises her husband, diminishing his feelings. She does this through the use of the metaphor, “The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures; ‘tis the eye of childhood that fears the painted devil.” Here she is saying that Macbeth should not be affected by the sight of Duncan’s corpse, as it appears he is just sleeping. The phrase, “eye of childhood,” reflects Lady Macbeth’s scorn at her husband’s lack of courage and fear; she emasculates him, reducing him to the status of a child, to ensure that he is aware she is displeased. Through this representation of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s relationship, Shakespeare could be referring to Queen Elizabeth I, who constantly had to prove herself as monarch of a patriarchal society. Lady Macbeth feels the need to disparage her husband to fuel her own sense of power and success.
However, in the rest of the play, there are glimpses of the loving relationship shared between Macbeth and his wife. They are so strongly connected that they often mirror each other’s words in different scenes. Lady Macbeth declares, “Out damned spot, out I say,” which is similarly remarked by Macbeth in “Out brief candle, out!” These references to each other’s words depicts the strength of their connection. Shakespeare here is implying the importance of marriage as a contract in the eyes of God. The importance of religion is stressed throughout the play, and though the relationship between Macbeth and his wife is often one sided and unreciprocated, the sacrament of marriage is so significant that there remains a connection between them.
As the play progresses in the aftermath of Duncan’s murder, we can also see the emergence of Lady Macbeth’s duty to protect her husband. As Macbeth hints of his plans to kill Banquo, Lady Macbeth expresses a desire to stop him, demanding, “You must stop this.” The use of imperative highlights her alacrity in suppressing his killing spree for his own good. However, Macbeth replies later with, “Be innocent of knowledge, dearest chuck.” The superlative ‘dearest’ demonstrates Macbeth’s affection for his wife and his wish to keep her innocent, despite everything they have done already. It is significant that this should occur after Duncan’s death because it shows and evolution in Lady Macbeth’s character. She is no longer desirous of committing evil deeds and now wants to quell her husband, rather than encourage his murderous pursuits. Shakespeare is trying to subtly undermine King James’ misogynistic interpretation of the Bible that it is women who will lead to the downfall of men, by including this representation of Lady Macbeth after her manipulative and controlling behaviour.
Shakespeare has explored the turbulence of marriage, as well as criticizing social conformities and the views of the monarchy through the relationship of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.