Macbeth vs. a Simple Plan
Macbeth, a play written by William Shakespeare in the early 17th century and A Simple Plan, a 1998 Hollywood production are surprisingly similar. These two tragedies illustrate two contented ordinary men, whose lives are irrevocably altered for the worse, resulting in their downfalls. Both men are happily married to women who share their ambitions and become their driving force. Lady Macbeth and Sarah Mitchell are both intelligent and powerful characters as they understand their husbands’ weaknesses and know how to use it to their advantages.
Although the men are the ones who act upon the evil plots, the wives play the more important role as the authority and motivation of their actions. Both Lady Macbeth and Sarah formulate plans to obtain their objectives before their husbands can think far enough ahead. The instant Lady Macbeth reads Macbeth’s letter, stating that he met witches who predicted he would be king, she immediately decides that the king will be killed: “The Raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements” (Macbeth 1. 5. 38-40).
As Macbeth earlier asks the stars to hide his desire, she openly asks the spirits to strengthen her desire by filling her with manly cruelty: Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of the direst cruelty. (1. 5. 40-43) She is clearly willing to do whatever is necessary to seize the throne. When Macbeth arrives home and tells her that King Duncan will come to their castle that night, she says to him: You shall put This night’s great business into my despatch; Which shall to all our nights and days to come
Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom. (1. 5. 67-70) This speech shows that Lady Macbeth is the brain behind Macbeth’s actions and that her ambition is strong enough to drive her husband forward. She even facilitates the night’s events as she plans the agenda of the evening, preparing “wine and wassail” for the two chamberlains, and placing the dagger for Macbeth in the most convenient place. Throughout the play, Lady Macbeth’s shifting control over her husband is mainly responsible for aggravating the struggle between Macbeth’s moralities and “vaulting ambition”.
While Lady Macbeth is integral to her husband’s first crime her power wanes as he begins to act alone. Sarah, on the other hand, is more firm and determined. She ruthlessly attempts to plan out all of Hank’s actions, focusing on what she wants at the expense of others. Just like Lady Macbeth, the moment she realizes the possibility of more wealth and the lifestyle it will bring, she starts to plot her way to obtain it. The night Hank finds the money, Sarah concocts a plan to put five hundred thousand back in the plane to put Hank beyond suspicion, warning him to be extremely careful, while he is still contemplating his guilt.
Right after she gives birth to her first child, she announces her second plan, which involves Hank and his brother Jacob blackmailing the third accomplice, Lou. This scene shares some similarity with Lady Macbeth’s own planning for her husband’s cover up of the initial crime. In both instances, the women reveal they are the crucial elements of evil in the actions. Sarah’s second plan leads to more deaths because she does not consider the fact that people react violently when they are threatened.
Her determination does not waver as she plans another scheme to avoid the FBI’s investigation for the safety of the money and Hank’s life. Unlike, Lady Macbeth, Sarah’s power of persuasion increases as the story unfolds. Although, it seems like their husbands do all the evil acts, Macbeth and Hank can still be sympathized with because the women proved themselves as the real villain. As a way of setting their plan to action, Lady Macbeth and Sarah manipulated their husbands leaving them with no reason not to obey. Lady Macbeth takes advantage of the fact that she understands Macbeth’s weak spot.
Art though afread To be the same in thine own act and valour, As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,” Like the poor cat i’ the adage? (1. 7. 39-44) She taunts his fear and tells him to be a man. When Macbeth shows guilt and frailty after killing Duncan, her reply is again filled with manipulation attacking Macbeth’s manhood. She says he is a coward for being afraid of the dead, as they are just like paintings.
Also she says that the blood on their hands will be easily washed off by water, even though at the end of the play just before she commits suicide, she constantly obsesses with the imaginary blood that cannot be washed from her hands. When Macbeth experiences hallucinations of Banquo’s ghost, this was her reply: O! these flaws and starts, (Impostors to true fear) would well become A woman’s story at a winter’s fire, Authorized by her grandam. Shame itself! Why do you make such faces? When all’s done, You look but on a stool. (3. 4. 63-68)
Although, words like these can snap Macbeth back to his senses, she does not realize that they can also stimulate a man to neglect real consequences and conscience. Ultimately, her words unleash Macbeth’s true evil side. Sarah also exploits Hank’s manhood in the sense that a man’s entire obligation is to provide for and protect his family. When Hank has had enough of the violence and wants to return the money and live life like it used to be, Sarah goads him into keeping it. She says that they would have the same boring jobs for the next thirty years.
Their daughter, Amanda would wear second-hand clothes and play with used toys. Jacob would go back to the welfare office but with Lou gone, just himself and his dog in his filthy apartment, he would probably commit suicide. Just like Lady Macbeth, Sarah knows exactly where to hurt Hank. Her words seem to suggest that if Hank returns the money, he would be a very selfish man. She disregards the fact that keeping the money is illegal, and that it has caused many deaths just because she does not want to a simple life, even though they were happy before the possibility of wealth existed.
According to the women, if the men back out and show fear, they are not worthy of men but if they carry out the crimes then they are brave and honourable; in reality, it is the other way around, that it takes real courage to resist the temptation of cheating their way into power. As it seems, without the women’s artful schemes that introduce the men to such desperate violence, the men would be incapable of carrying out the crimes themselves. It is doubtful that Macbeth could killed King Duncan and in such a brutal way, without his wife.
Although it is Lady Macbeth that keeps him sane for a while and slaps him out of hallucinations, her manipulation gives him the stimulation he needs to commit more violence later on. Moreover, Sarah is the main cause of all the crimes Hank commits. Without her unnecessary plans and her manipulating words, they would have a higher chance of keeping the money safe. They are all so wrapped up in this greedy world; they fail to consider the consequences of their actions more realistically.