The Innocent Flower and The Serpent Under It: The Shifting Psyches of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

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In order for a relationship to survive, the two people in the relationship must sustain an equilibrium, but should one person exercise more power over the other, the relationship will fail. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s marriage suffers immensely when Lady Macbeth tilts the equilibrium by manipulating her husband into killing the king of Scotland. “Macbeth, usually dated 1606, is the story of a Scotch nobleman, related to King Duncan of Scotland, tempted into murdering the king to gain the crown for himself” (Gerwirtz 10). While Lady Macbeth’s initial stronger influence urges Macbeth to usurp the throne through regicide, the unconscious personality reversal prevents new king and queen from enjoying their ill-gotten positions. Lady Macbeth’s instinctive desires, or her id (in Freudian terms), constantly battles with Macbeth’s conscience, or superego, but once Lady Macbeth’s superego dominates her mind and Macbeth’s id drives him to madness, the couple instigates their own tragic downfall. According to Freud, every human’s basic needs and initial wants originate in the id (“Freud’s Concepts”). The id does not recognize right from wrong; it supplies “all of our aggressions and desires.” Also known as the “pleasure principle,” the id, if not contained, could lead to the destruction of others and possibly the destruction of oneself. Because of these destructive tendencies, theologians believe the Devil possesses any person with an overpowering id (Guerin et. al. 157). In the first half of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth represents a preeminent id. Even though her conscience grows in strength throughout the play, a crucial difference between Lady Macbeth and her husband lies with her ability to stifle her ... ... middle of paper ... ...peare A to Z. New York: Roundtable, 1990. Print. "Freud's Concept of the Personality." Making the Modern World. The Science Museum. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. "From LECTURE XXXI (1932) The Anatomy of the Mental Personality." The Anatomy of The Mental Personality. Web. 15 May 2011. . Gerwirtz, Arthur. Monarch Notes: William Shakespeare's Macbeth. New York: Monarch, 1963. Print. Guerin, Wilfred L. et. al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. 5th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1992. Print. Hazlitt, William. "Macbeth." Essays by William Hazlitt. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1924. 146-59. Print. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. New York: Washington Square, 1992. Print. The New Folger Library Shakespeare.

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