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Lady Macbeth: A Multifaceted Character

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The play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, explores the darkest corners of the human psyche. It artfully takes its audience to a place that allows one to examine what a human being is truly capable of once tempted by the allure of power. In the play, Scottish noble Macbeth and his wife inevitably fall prey to their own self corruption. Initiated by prophesies made by three mysterious witches, the Macbeths set their sights on the throne. When the curtains open on the plot to murder King Duncan, Lady Macbeth is the driving force. Her criminal mind and desire for ruthlessness have led many a critic to define her as evil. Closer examination, however, reveals that she is a multifaceted character; other sides to her persona include: genuine good will towards her husband, coy manipulation, and feminine tenderness.

One of Lady Macbeth’s commonly overlooked traits is her goodness, especially towards her husband, Macbeth. This goodness is first apparent at her introduction; as she reads the letter written to her by Macbeth. The letter tells of the three witches, whom Macbeth refers to as the weird sisters, and a prophecy regarding Macbeth’s future kingship. Immediately, Lady Macbeth desires the throne for her husband. Not only desire is felt, but also determination. Worried that Macbeth would not be capable of walking the quickest path to the throne, killing the current King Duncan, Lady Macbeth calls forth evil spirits to strip her of her weaker, feminine qualities. She says:

[U]nsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full

Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;

Stop up the access and passage to remorse,

That no compunctious visitings of nature

Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between

The effect and it! (I...

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...ay sees a complete transformation in her disposition. Her inescapable femininity, coupled with unbearable remorse for Duncan’s murder as well as several other indirect killings, torments her. She cannot rest peacefully, reliving her crimes even while asleep, and is profoundly unhappy. Indeed, Lady Macbeth is unable to maintain both her sanity and inherent tenderness; her torment driving her first to insanity and then to suicide.

To conclude, Lady Macbeth is a multifaceted character, her persona having many sides; notably: genuine goodness towards her husband, coy manipulation, and femininity. It is therefore inaccurate to define her as purely evil; despite the means by which she desires to accomplish her fantastical end. For all Lady Macbeth’s drive and determination, she eventually loses her dominant role, captive until her demise to her inescapable femininity.
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