The Manipulative Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth

The Manipulative Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Lady Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most famous and frightening female characters. As she is Macbeth’s wife, her role is significant in his rise and fall from royalty. She is Macbeth’s other half. During Shakespearean times, women were regarded as weak insignificant beings that were there to give birth and look beautiful. They were not thought to be as intelligent or equal to men. Though in Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is the highest influence in Macbeth’s life. Her role was so large; in fact, that she uses her position to gain power, stay strong enough to support her unstable Lord, and fails miserably while their relationship falls apart. Everything about Lady Macbeth is enough to create the perfect villain because of her ability to manipulate everyone around her. It appears that even she can’t resist the perfect crime.
Lady Macbeth is a dominant character as soon as she is introduced into the play. A.C. Bradley wrote about her as “…the most commanding and perhaps the most awe-inspiring figure that Shakespeare drew” from his article titled Lecture X. She became a image known for her ambitious nature. Her thirst for power and disregard for life was shocking to the audience, as to her own husband. The moment she learns of the prophecies, she decides to stand behind Macbeth and see him to the throne. She is immediately set on her quest for more power. As it reads “Glamis thou art, and Cowador, and shalt be/ What thou art promised (1.5.13-14) This moment is crucial because it is the turning point where Lady Macbeth decides that she might have to kill to fulfill her quest for royalty. Macbeth is doubtful about their plan to kill King Duncan; however, she bombards him with comments that question his courage. She goes as far as telling him his love his worth nothing if he refuses, which proves her to be dominant and controlling using his own weakness against him. His love for her. The fact that she belittles his confidence, insults his abilities, and questions his manhood is so manipulative, but also wise because it worked in her favor. She said to him “Screw your courage to the sticking place” (1.7.60). She was confident that her ridicule could gain her control over her husband. There is no doubt that she manipulates her close relationship to Macbeth to get them both the power they covet.

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She uses mockery and persuasion to pressure him into murder. He is left feeling as if he must commit the murder with the intention of proving himself to her. Lady Macbeth appears evil, but this is proof of her devotion and drive to assist Macbeth rise to the throne. She is strong woman and acts as a powerhouse towards her pursuit for power.
Macbeth becomes paranoid and nervous after he murders Duncan. Lady Macbeth proved to support her husband by using her strengths to make up for his weakness by consoling him during the decline of his insanity. Lady Macbeth becomes fearful that could perhaps expose their devilish doings through his acts and facial expressions. She tells him, “Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under’t. (1.5.65). It is clear that Macbeth needs support, and without insurance and control from his wife, Macbeth would have fallen apart sooner than later. Although Macbeth committed the murder, it is actually Lady Macbeth who is in control of the assassination. She assures him, “Infirm of purpose! / Give me the daggers The sleeping and the dead/ are but as pictures (2.2.50-51).
Macbeth’s guilt develops further and his sense of judgment becomes an issue for him. At a banquet, Macbeth is certain he sees the ghost of his murdered former companion, Banquo. Macbeth’s mental state is declining and Lady Macbeth takes strength where her husband lacks. Lady Macbeth says to their guests, “my lord is often thus/ And hath been from his youth/ pray you, keep seat/ The fit is momentary (3.4.52-54). If Macbeth spoke any further, he could be exposed of his secrets of murder, but Lady Macbeth conceals for his burst of indecorous behavior. A.C. Bradley wrote about this moment as, “In presence of overwhelming horror and dagger, in the murder scene and the banquet scene, her self control is perfect. She leans on nothing but herself. However appalling she may be, she is sublime.” Lady Macbeth is then proven to be the strong and supportive wife. Thus, without her constant support, they could have been uncovered in their wrongdoings.
Lady Macbeth’s skill throughout the play was to compensate for her husband’s shortcomings as well. While being questioned for the killing of the servants for the brutal murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth pretends to faint as an attempt to draw attention away from her husband. Shakespeare’s day was one of continued chivalry, and men felt obliged to help women in distress. Lady Macbeth’s calculating trick succeeded by drawing chaos towards herself, ironically it was Macbeth who was actually in distress.
As they rise to royalty, they face a downfall in their relationship. Macbeth gains knowledge of the witches’ prophecies and writes to Lady Macbeth to tell her of what he has learned. This is an important scene that proves his dedication and love for her. This scene can prove that they were at once happy, trusting, and devoted to one another. She tries her best to persuade Macbeth to change his mind when he experiences fear. This becomes a pivotal point in their relationship. They are still close, but it is the conspiracy that holds them together now. They are kept close because of their secret. Their relationship is then focused on their obsession for power, and less for their love for one another. The imaginary blood in Act 2 Scene 2 held them together. A.C. Bradley records her transformation as, “When we first see her, Queen of Scotland, the glory of her dream has faded. She enters, disillusioned, and weary with want of sleep: she has thrown away everything and gained nothing”. Lady Macbeth goes on to say:

The relationship declines further in Act 3 Scenes 1-3. As time prevailed, she has lost much of the power she once had over Macbeth. He fails to inform her of other murders, simply because she is no longer needed and he has become stronger than she.
The murder of Duncan has had everlasting effects on Lady Macbeth, which destroyed her relationship with her husband. Her toughness had since faded as the guilt eats away at her conscience. She sleep-walks and attempts to remove imaginary blood stains off her hands. The insanity shows evidence of her feminine weakness. Although, she requested for the spirits to unsex her in the beginning, she cannot escape the guilt from these horrendous acts. She comes to realize that the crown has not brought her happiness. Lady Macbeth becomes weak and looses control over Macbeth. She is no longer able to tell him what to do. They no longer bond or confide in one another; she becomes shut out on the man she molded. She was strong-willed and confident when she said, “What’s done is done” (3.2.12). Which will only bring significance to her last words spoken, “What’s don’t cannot be undone” (5.1.46-47).
Lady Macbeth was a chief character who played a strategic role. Her character plays a major role in operating Macbeth for his own downfall. Her passion for position and power led Macbeth to push forward when he was hesitant. Although she wished to be unwomanly - she actually used her femininity to her advantage to manipulate everyone around her. Lady Macbeth was a strong supportive partner and was able to stay loyal to her lord, until she becomes unstable. Their on going quest for power within the kingdom caused them to eventually loose power within their own lives and relationship. They become victims from their crimes visibly suffering from the damage it has left on their heart. Nonetheless, Lady Macbeth’s role in Macbeth was crucial to the development of the plot, and is proved to be one of the most important characters in the play. and She finally realizes that the crown has not brought her happiness.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, Willaim, and Aaron Durband. Macbeth. Shakespeare Made Easy . Hauppagem, NY: Barron, 2004. Print.

Bradley, A.C., and John Russell Brown. Shakespearean Tragedy. Introduction to the Forth Edition. New York, NY: Palgrave Publishers Ltd (formerly Macmillian Press Ltd), 2002. 294-321. Print.

Bradley, A.C. Lecture X Macbeth. Shakespearean Tragedy Introduction to the Forth Edition. New York, NY: Palgrave Publishers Ltd (formerly Macmillian Press Ltd), 2002. 322-330. Print.
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