Feminism in Macbeth
Why Lady Macbeth should appear weak when Macbeth is the one to blame for being guilty? Feminism and the breaking of some stereotypes are the major themes in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, as shown primarily through the character of Lady Macbeth. At first she is shown as a brave woman who is against the stereotypes and tries to access some male characteristics by forcing Macbeth to kill King Duncan, yet she hesitates in killing him herself, which reveals her innate weakness as a woman.
After the death of Duncan, she feels a strong guilt over the murder of her husband’s victims which makes her sick and she becomes psychotic. Lastly, she reveals her inferior nature as a woman by committing suicide which is a proof of her weakness and the failure of acting against her nature. Lady Macbeth’s effort to access male qualities fails right after she convinces her husband to commit murder and her feeling of guilt leads her to eventually commit suicide, which proves the stereotype and feminism in the play Macbeth.
In this play, one of the major characters, Lady Macbeth, acts against her nature as a woman to assume male characteristics, in order to become the queen. When she receives a letter from Macbeth that says he is willing to kill King Duncan, she talks to the spirits in her mind and says: “Unsex me here/ and fill me from the crown to the toe/ top full of direst cruelty! ” (1. 5. 46-49). In fact she wants the spirits to strip her of her feminine traits, make her strong, and let her commit a crime without regretting it in the future.
With all of these dark thoughts that she has in her mind, she still tries to act nice and compassionate in the public, so that nobody can realize what plans they have. Macbeth also wants her to act this way and he thinks that “False face must hide what the false heart doth know. ” (1. 7. 92). He tells Lady Macbeth that the face should hide what the “false heart” has inside, because he is aware of Lady Macbeth’s personality and he points it out by telling her: “Bring forth men-children only/ for thy undaunted mettle should compose” (1. 7. 0-81) which shows that he believes Lady Macbeth does not have a proper action as a woman and she only should have “men-children”, meaning boys. Her effort towards having the qualities of the opposite gender helps her to do what a woman would not usually do; it helps her to plan a murder and be the reason of it. After the stereotype’s been broken, the idea of women being weak and breakable comes up through the character of Lady Macbeth by showing her inability to kill King Duncan and the strong feeling of guilt over the murders which she helps to happen, and makes her mad afterward.
The moment Macbeth goes to her after he kills Duncan, and seems regretful of what he did, Lady Macbeth tells him: “Had [Duncan] not resembled/ My father as he slept, I had done’t” (2. 2. 16-17). She says she was not able to kill Duncan herself because he reminded her of her father. Therefore her words express the strong emotions that are still within her, and are against what she wanted to become. Right from that point, she feels the regret. Even when she is telling Macbeth that “A little water clears us of this deed” (2. 2. 85), she feels guilty about the blood on her hands.
She has “hand of Macbeth’s colors” but she feels “shame to wear a heart so white. ” (2. 2. 82-83). After a while, the feeling of being guilty makes her mad and she starts to feel blood all over her hands, yet they were clean. Even when Gentlewoman brings a doctor to see her, she talks unconsciously about the death of Banquo and the fact that “banquo’s buried;/ he cannot come out on’s grave” (5. 1. 58-59) but she still feels “Yet [there] is a spot” (5. 1. 29) of blood. And she also feels there “is the smell of blood still/ All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten [her] little hand” (5. . 46-47). The effects of regression and shamefaced make her feel insecure and mad which show her weakness and unstable personality. If she could succeed to have men qualities, she wouldn’t be suffering once she was guilty over the crime. Lastly, the failure of a woman who tries to break the stereotype is shown by Lady Macbeth’s suicide. When the doctor absorbs the sickness and madness of Lady Macbeth, he warns Gentlewoman about her situation and tells her to “look after her/ remove from her the means of all annoyances/ and still keep eyes upon her” (5. . 70-72). This is a foreshadowing that explains the cause of Lady Macbeth’s death later in the play when Seyton goes to Macbeth and says “The queen, my lord, is dead. ” (5. 5. 16).
That is the moment when Macbeth realizes that her wife had committed suicide and soon he says: She should have died hereafter/ There would have been a time for such a word/ Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow/ Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/ To the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/ The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle. / Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more. It is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing. (5. 5. 16-27) Macbeth’s speech is a reflection of his love for Lady Macbeth and he sees the life is nothing but a story told “by an idiot”, after Lady Macbeth’s gone. The death of Lady Macbeth makes his life meaningless and hopeless.
After trying so hard for getting the power, suddenly it’s all gone. Choosing suicide for ending Lady Macbeth’s role shows the feminism very clearly, because suicide has always been considered as the action of somebody who is weak and unable to handle the problems that she/he has got. In this play, even though Macbeth commits the crime, it’s Lady Macbeth who commits suicide and it is a prove of the stereotype that women are weak, emotional and fragile, both physically and emotionally.
Accordingly, In Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, feminism and breaking the stereotypes can be considered as the major theme which is reflected by the character of Lady Macbeth through the play. First she is shown as a strong woman and somebody who doesn’t believe in stereotypes and the ideas that woman are weaker and fragile, and she tries to act against her inferior nature as a woman as she wants the spirits to “unsex” her. In the other hand, she shows her emotional soul by hesitating in killing Duncan and once she realizes that she is the major reasons of all the murders, she gets sick and goes mad.
The feeling of being guilty and having hands immersed of blood makes her commit suicide and end the pain. Obviously Macbeth feels guilty as well but he does not committed suicide which makes him seem strong and powerful. Since suicide is always being known as a matter of weakness, giving Lady Macbeth’s character an end by a suicide is a strong proof of the stereotype and feminism in this play. Macbeth is the person who feels guilty from the first moment, so why is Lady Macbeth the one who should appear fragile and weak at the end?