Character Analysis “Lady Macbeth”

9 September 2016

Set in 1603, Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, follows the life of what started out to be a normal married couple. When the couple, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, discover from a prophecy that Macbeth would one day rule the land of Scotland, the two did everything in power to make sure this would come true. The couple devised a plan to murder Duncan, the current king of Scotland; Macbeth carried out this plan. With this newfound immense amount of royal power, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth go through several challenges in their relationship.

Throughout Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, there are significant changes in the way the audience perceives Lady Macbeth when considering her power, brutality, and physical characteristics. Comparing the beginning to the end of the play, it is apparent that Lady Macbeth is very different when considering her power. In the beginning, it appears as if Lady Macbeth was the superior in her relationship with Macbeth. At this period of time, man being inferior to woman was found to be very unusual. In a sense, Lady Macbeth was the “man” of the relationship.

While debating whether or not Macbeth should kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth says, “When you durst do it, then you were a man; and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man” (Shakespeare 43). This line expresses Lady Macbeth’s opinion that Macbeth will only be a true man if he follows through with the murder; until then, Lady Macbeth would question his manhood. By using this line, Lady Macbeth has total control over her husband and can basically get him to do whatever she may ask. On the other hand, Macbeth seemed to turn around and take steps toward being the “bigger man” in their relationship as the play unfolded.

With his immense amount of power, Lady Macbeth had no choice but to go with his superiority. An example of Lady Macbeth’s weakness was when she was conversing with the doctor and said, “Out, damned spot, out I say! One. Two” (Shakespeare 163). This quote explains how Lady Macbeth was obsessive over washing her hands, in other words, she was trying to get rid of the guilt of Duncan’s Murder. This section of the play shows Lady Macbeth’s significant change of weakness. As a weak woman, she succumbs herself to Macbeth’s power. In sum, Lady Macbeth went from being a powerful wife to a meaningless woman within the play.

Another change the audience sees in the play is Lady Macbeth’s brutality. At the beginning of the play, she was the mastermind of Macbeth’s violent endeavors (Duncan’s Murder). When the two were plotting Duncan’s murder, it was Lady Macbeth who conveyed Macbeth to follow through; he was about to back out of the plan, as he did not want to commit such crime. When Macbeth was pondering the idea of failure, Lady Macbeth was quick to respond, “We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail” (Shakespeare 43).

This quote shows that Lady Macbeth was the one with confidence in their situation at hand. Towards the end of the play, it was Macbeth who was the mastermind behind his devious plans. Macbeth develops a sense of anxiety over Banquo, as he was the only one who suspected Macbeth had anything to do with Duncan’s Murder. Macbeth makes plans to kill Banquo, “Our fears in Banquo stick deep, and in his royalty of nature reigns that which would be feared” (Shakespeare 85). Macbeth was making these plans with two murders that he hired; not lady Macbeth.

With the guilt of Duncan’s murder, it is doubtful that Lady Macbeth would offer support to Macbeth’s plan, given the opportunity, but Macbeth had purposely left her out of his plans. Now that he was king, he no longer needed assistance from his “housewife”. This just goes to show that Lady Macbeth went from being a brutal organizer of murder to a wife that has no part of her Husband’s secret life. Throughout Macbeth there are several observable changes in the physical being of Lady Macbeth. Though she may appear the same when focusing on her physical appearance, there are several physical changes in her mental health.

At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth seemed to be a typical put together woman. At the end of the play, she virtually became a psychiatric patient who was in desperate need of mental healthcare. A doctor was consulted, but even the doctor knew there was nothing that could be done to save Lady Macbeth. While the doctor observed Lady Macbeth in her sleep, Lady Macbeth exclaimed “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand…Wash your hands” (Shakespeare 163-5).

The doctor responds to the gentlewoman, “This disease is beyond my practice…So, good night. My mind she has mated, and amazed my sight. I think but dare not speak” (Shakespeare 165). This line shows the astonishment the doctor faces while observing Lady Macbeth. Her illness had reached a level of severity that a doctor could not even fix. Therefore, Lady Macbeth experiences many changes in her physical health throughout Macbeth. Macbeth is a very dense read with a lot of information and different characters. However, the changes in Lady Macbeth were very significant.

Though the story concluded with her tragic death, Macbeth put his wife through countless situations that no woman should have to live through. She went from being the brains behind a murder to observing her husband committing several ruthless crimes. She also went from being a strong healthy woman to a woman with severe mental health issues. Throughout Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, there are significant changes in the way the audience perceives Lady Macbeth when considering her power, brutality, and physical characteristics. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. N. p. : Folger Shakespeare Library, 1992. Print.

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