The Character of Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Play
The Task: Discuss Shakespeare’s presentation of Lady Macbeth in Act 1
Scene 5 and Act 5 Scene 1 of ‘Macbeth.’ Account for the changes and
differences you notice and suggest how a contemporary as well as a
modern audience might respond to these scenes.
Shakespeare’s shortest and bloodiest tragedy, Macbeth tells the story
of a brave Scottish general (Macbeth) who receives a prophecy from a
trio of sinister witches that one day he will become king of Scotland.
Consumed with ambitious thoughts and urged to action by his wife,
Macbeth murders King Duncan and seizes the throne for himself. He
begins his reign wracked with guilt and fear and soon becomes a
dictatorial ruler, as he is forced to commit more and more murders to
protect him from hate and suspicion. The bloodbath swiftly propels
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to arrogance, madness, and death.
Macbeth’s wife is a deeply ambitious woman who desires for power and
position. Early in the play she seems to be the stronger and more
ruthless of the two, as she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize
the crown. After the bloodshed begins, however, Lady Macbeth falls
victim to guilt and madness to an even greater degree than her
husband. Her conscience affects her to such an extent that she
eventually commits suicide. Interestingly, she and Macbeth are
presented as being deeply in love, and many of Lady Macbeth’s speeches
imply that her influence over her husband is primarily sexual. Their
joint disaffection from the world, occasioned by their partnership in
crime, seems to strengthen the attachment that they feel to each
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... with her eyes wide open. Shakespeare
uses constant reference to act 1 in act 5. As Lady Macbeth washes
away an imperceptible spot, this signifies to the audience what
happened in act 1 when she tells Macbeth to wash as bloodstain.
Additionally Lady Macbeth is thought to be the more corrupting
character through the play as she is confident to murder the king, but
as the play ends she is identified to be more ruined than Macbeth and
is driven into insanity. Shakespeare uses Lady Macbeth to portray a
strong message to the audience. Lady Macbeth is exposed as a manly
character, who wishes to have masculine features. She was driven to
kill herself by guilt and we think that she executes herself by
suicide. The play reveals many moral and religious issues; there is
comparison and reference to biblical stories.