Feminine Roles in Shakespeare's Macbeth

2878 Words12 Pages
Macbeth's Feminine Roles The feminine roles in William Shakespeare's Macbeth are only two, the witches being not human in many ways, and we shall consider only one in great detail in this essay - that of the all-important Lady Macbeth. The witches are considered briefly. In "Memoranda: Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth," Sarah Siddons comments on how the feminine role of the leading lady is not a typical one as regards attitude: [Macbeth] announces the King's approach; and she, insensible it should seem to all the perils which he has encountered in battle, and to all the happiness of his safe return to her, -- for not one kind word of greeting or congratulations does she offer, -- is so entirely swallowed up by the horrible design, which has probably been suggested to her by his letters, as to have forgotten both the one and the other. It is very remarkable that Macbeth is frequent in expressions of tenderness to his wife, while she never betrays one symptom of affection towards him, till, in the fiery furnace of affliction, her iron heart is melted down to softness. (56) Fanny Kemble in "Lady Macbeth" finds that the main female role could have ended in madness due to the evil tendencies of the lady: Lady Macbeth, even in her sleep, has no qualms of conscience; her remorse takes none of the tenderer forms akin to repentance, nor the weaker ones allied to fear, from the pursuit of which the tortured soul, seeking where to hide itself, not seldom escapes into the boundless wilderness of madness. A very able article, published some years ago in the National Review, on the character of Lady Macbeth, insists much upon an opinion that she died of remorse, as some palliation of her crimes, and mitigation of our detestation of them. That she died of wickedness would be, I think, a juster verdict. Remorse is consciousness of guilt . . . and that I think Lady Macbeth never had; though the unrecognized pressure of her great guilt killed her. (116-17) Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare contradict the impression that the female protagonist is all strength: Lady Macbeth is of a finer and more delicate nature. Having fixed her eye upon the end - the attainment for her husband of Duncan's crown - she accepts the inevitable means; she nerves herself for the terrible night's work by artificial stimulants; yet she cannot strike the sleeping king who resembles her father.

More about Feminine Roles in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Open Document