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The Changes in Lady Macbeth’s Character

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William Shakespeare’s Macbeth was written between 1603-1606 when Queen Elizabeth was on her death bed, childless and unmarried. She named James VI of Scotland her successor. He then became James 1 of England. William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth clearly with the new king in mind.

The story Macbeth was taken from a basic story called ‘The Chronicles of Scotland’ a history book written by Raphel Holinished, but he changed a lot of it.

Macbeth is a tragic play full of evil and ambition. This play also raises a lot of questions about guilt, conscience and the true nature of evil.

We are first introduced to Lady Macbeth in Act 1 scene 5 where she was reading a letter written by her husband, in which he informs her of the witches’ prophecies. We immediately see that she believes in the witches’ predictions and is determined to make Macbeth king so she may become queen.

“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be what thou art promis’d.”(Act 1 scene 5)

But she fears her husband’s good nature will prevent him from taking the quickest route to the throne. We can see this in the sililoque where she say’s:

“Yet do I fear thy nature, it is too full o’th milk of humane kindness, to catch the nearest way.” (Act 1 scene 5)

She goes on saying that she’ll have to pour some of her own evil into Macbeth and that she’ll have to persuade him to do what he has to do to become king.

” That I may pour my spirits in thine ear.”(Act 1 scene 5)

When the messenger arrives reporting to her that Duncan will be coming to stay at her palace she is shocked:

“Thou’rt mad to say it!” (Act 1 scene 5)

Lady Macbeth is also pleased to hear that Duncan will be coming to stay at her palace the night in which she tells the servant to reward the messenger who brought the good news:

“Give him tending: He brings great news.”(Act 1 scene 5)

She immediately begins to plot Duncan’s murder and asks the evil spirits to fill her with evil so she may do what she has to do to get rid of any good 2inside her to make Macbeth King and herself Queen.

“Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty.” (Act 1 scene 5)

When Macbeth arrives in Act 1 scene 5 we see that Lady Macbeth greets him with love, respect and honour:

” Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor!” (Act 1 scene 5)

Then she tells Macbeth about the plan to kill Duncan to claim their place as king and queen.

During Act 1 scene 7 we see Lady Macbeth persistently having to emphasize Macbeth’s determination to perform the murder. As he roams the castle in hesitation.

Macbeth begins to explain why it would not be a good idea to kill Duncan. He also tells her he will not do the murder. Lady Macbeth becomes irritated and turns on him she begins to offend him by calling him a coward:

“And live a coward in thine own esteem.” (Act 1 scene 7)

Lady Macbeth uses this insult in hope that Macbeth will try and defend himself and thus carry out the murder. When he again refuses Lady Macbeth annoyed and says that she would dash out the brains of her own child if she had said she would do it:

“I would while it was smiling in my face Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I sworn like you.” (Act 1 scene 7)

Lady Macbeth eventually manages to persuade Macbeth’s feelings and proceeds to tell him the plan that she has evilly made up. She will make the guards drunk leaving Macbeth to kill Duncan and the guards shall get the blame. Lady Macbeth is too confident to see that the plan has many weaknesses and can easily go wrong. She believes that intrepidity is all that is needed to carry out the murder.

In Act 2 scene 2 we see that Lady Macbeth has had to drink to keep up her sprits:

“That which hath made them drink hath made me bold;” (Act 2 scene 2)

We understand from all her evil intentions that she could not murder Duncan due to the fact that he reminded her of her father. This scene raises questions for the audiences: is Lady Macbeth actually utterly evil or is she just fooling herself into thinking that she is completely evil.

Macbeth returns to the chamber. Lady Macbeth is not sure he has done the deed:

“Alack, I am afraid they have awaked and ’tis not done.” (Act 2 scene 2)

Macbeth insists that he has done the deed yet returning with the two bloody daggers Lady Macbeth insults him and takes the daggers back to where Duncan’s body is.

During Act 2 scene 3 when Macduff discovers that Duncan has been murdered Lady Macbeth faints to draw attention away from Macbeth and on to her. She has already begun to cover for Macbeth.

Into Act 3 scene 2 where Lady Macbeth is no longer in charge of Macbeth, Macbeth now has the courage to do things himself including planning to murder without the help of his wife. Macbeth does not consult Lady Macbeth about killing Banquo, he only tells her to be:

“Be innocent of the knowledge.” (Act 3 scene 2)

We now see a complete change over instead of Lady Macbeth doing the commanding and Macbeth the accepting it is Lady Macbeth doing the accepting and Macbeth doing the commanding.

Act 3 scene 4 is the last scene where we see Lady Macbeth and Macbeth together. Here they planning a banquet in which they have invited numerous numbers of important people.

The emergence of Banquo’s ghost threatens to spoil the banquet. Only Macbeth can see the ghost Lady Macbeth does not know what Macbeth has seen she has to cover up for him by making up story’s such as:

“Sit worthy friends. My lord is often thus; And hath been from his youth. Pray you keep seat. The fit is momentary; upon a thought He will again be well. If much you note him, You shall offend him and extend his passion. Feed and regard him not.” (Act 3 scene 4)

Lady Macbeth’s next appearance is in Act 5 she is mad and a broken woman we can see that she is not the strong woman she used to be. Now Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking and keeps washing her hands trying to get rid of the blood on her hands before Macbeth had said these words:

“What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” (Act 5)

We can now catch sight of the fact that Lady Macbeth has become demented. At the she did not care about her hands being full of Duncan’s blood now she keeps imagining that she has blood on her hands.

Towards the end of this scene William Shakespeare manages to make us feel sorry for Lady Macbeth.

Near the closing of the play we hear that Lady Macbeth is dead she might have committed suicide. She is not as powerful as she was during the beginning of the play Lady Macbeth’s torture drives her mad thus causing her to commit suicide. All the pressure Lady Macbeth had been put through proved to be to much for her. Even during her madness she was tortured to the point of death.

When I first encountered Lady Macbeth I felt loathsome towards her character. I can’t imagine someone wanting to become more evil and commit such a deed. I realized that when she was going to murder Duncan she couldn’t do it as it reminded her of her father I felt less hatred towards her realizing that she was not as she seemed.

During the banquet I felt sorry for her because her and her husband were no longer communicating with eachother which was quite upsetting due to the fact that they used to be quite close but after the murder their relationship fell apart. She is put under a lot of pressure. When Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost she has to cover for his behavior.

I think that Shakespeare has created an outstanding character in Lady Macbeth. Not many women would be able to gain full control over their husbands, the way Lady Macbeth did, especially during the period she lived in. What I find most amazing about lady Macbeth is that during the beginning of the play, Shakespeare creates a character in Lady Macbeth that makes us loathe her and during the end we begin to pity her.

Very few theatrical characters would make us loathe a character and then begin to change our feelings towards them at the end.

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