Explore how Shakespeare presents the power of rhetoric in Act 1 Scene 7 of “Macbeth”
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In Act 1 Scene 7 of “Macbeth”, Lady Macbeth uses persuasive language to bring Macbeth from a man full of trepidation, to a hardened killer, ready to commit regicide. She does this in a variety of ways. The play was extremely controversial at the time; this was because it effectively reversed the gender roles of society. These roles were imprinted into the very fabric of medieval community; women were seen as inferior to males, and were brutally oppressed by the largely patriarchal society. As a result, shakespearean audiences would be shocked by the role reversal portrayed in Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth frequently uses insulting language, aiming to insult Macbeth’s masculinity. One instance where she does this is when she says “Art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valour as thou art in desire?” She is asking him if he is scared to be as brave as much as he desires and loves her. This was evidently designed to provoke Macbeth into retaliation, and to prove his masculinity, he would assassinate King Duncan.
Another way Lady Macbeth insults him is when she says “Live a coward in thine own esteem”, this is saying Macbeth will be a coward if he fails to assassinate the King. In a conventional Shakespearean couple, a woman would never call her husband a coward; it was unspeakable. This emphasises Lady Macbeth’s masculinity, and shows her dominance in the marriage. The word “live is used, which, perhaps subliminally, tells Macbeth that they would live through the assassination and the subsequent events. Lady Macbeth is telling Macbeth will live a coward if he settles for his “golden opinions” and his lordship over Cawdor.
In his soliloquy, Macbeth indicates to the audience his clear reluctance to kill the king, as he thinks a...
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...e alchemical instruments. The most common form of alchemy was trying to turn a base metal, which was typically lead, into gold, Lady Macbeth may have been referring to Duncan as the “lead” which would be replaced by the “gold”, Macbeth, the “receipt” and the “limbeck” being the tools they would use to achieve this.
The final words of Act 1 Scene 7 are Macbeth committing to assassinate his king. This completely overturns his earlier doubts and fears. He is affirming his wife’s power over him and her general dominance over the relationship. Macbeth says “False face must hide what the false heart doth know”, this has an element of certainty to it, further proving that he has now taken up the mantle of the murderer. No longer is he the scared man that gave the soliloquy at the start of the scene; Lady Macbeth’s power over rhetoric has fashioned him into a king-killer.