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Lady Macbeth Analysis

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As is evident in the work of most writers, Shakespeare’s writing was modified and developed over the course of his career. The most apparent change over time is his use of female characters within the tragedies. In King Lear, Goneril and Regan were created as unsympathetic female characters, essentially the antagonists of the plays. However, in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed with many of the same characteristics of Goneril and Regan, yet is seen as a tragic character because she is later portrayed in a sympathetic light. As Goneril and Regan precede the creation of Lady Macbeth, comparing and contrasting their characteristics can then be used to identify Shakespeare’s evolution of the female roles within his plays.
Generally, women in Shakespeare’s time were a subservient class of citizens. Excluding Queen Elizabeth I, women who attempted to take on a prominent role in the social construction were considered abnormal – a threat to the natural balance. Within his tragedies, Shakespeare attempts the upset the conventional view of women as obedient to men and puts Goneril, Regan and Lady Macbeth in positions of power where, ultimately, they confirm the social stigma. In both cases the fault lies with the male party. In King Lear, it is Lear’s abdication of his throne which acts as a trigger for the eldest daughters, and in Macbeth it is the title character’s lack of initial male dominance which allows Lady Macbeth to influence the critical action of the play. Neither Goneril Regan, nor Lady Macbeth follow the normal female archetype evident in Shakespeare’s other tragedies, but have evolved into powerful and malevolent women who can stand on their own without male support.
In King Lear, Goneril and Regan are initially establi...

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...character because within her Shakespeare fully recognized the duality of human nature. Her ambition to be queen awakened the innate evil, which is present in every human being, within her which allowed her to connive towards the murder of Duncan. Yet her true character comes forward at the end when she goes mad due to the depth of her conscience. Goneril and Regan were created to display an extreme level of evil which blinded the sisters to the rashness of many of their actions. In Lady Macbeth, that extremity was tempered and molded in order to create a realistic and powerful woman. In this evolution between the two characters, Shakespeare has shown that women, just as much as men, are capable of retaining a range of characteristics both good and bad which can then exemplify them as powerful forces strong enough to control the action within their respective plays.
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