In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is introduced as Macbeth’s loving, loyal wife. An Elizabethan audience would expect her to be a domesticated housewife who depended on her husband. She holds the respect of the King, her servants and her husband’s companions. However, the moment she receives Macbeth’s letter, she initiates the action behind the play. Without Lady Macbeth, Macbeth would not have felt as obligated to murder King Duncan, and the play would not have developed the way it had. Her manipulative and cunning qualities were revealed during the planning of Duncan’s murder, and as the play continued her mind began to unravel. Her tragic flaw, a willingness to succeed without being caught, destroyed her. She became mentally unstable and the guilt in her heart resulted in her suicidal death. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is the catalyst behind the play, and falls the furthest in the end.
Lady Macbeth is not considered a normal Elizabethan woman. She is ambitious and has a weaker moral base. The average woman in Shakespeare’s time would be respectful and subservient to men. After reading Macbeth’s letter involving the witches’ prophecies, she begins planning how Macbeth will become King of Scotland. “Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promised. Yet so I fear thy nature;
It is too full o’th’milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way.” (I, V, 14)
She is aware that Macbeth is too kind to kill Duncan without proper motivation. She plans on talking him out of whatever is keeping him from pursuing the crown, and believes that fate wants him to become king. Her lust for power exposes her unpredictable qualities to the audience. This breaks the stereotypical view of Lady Macbeth because Elizabethan women did not take on warrior-like attributes, or became involved in political affairs. These qualities would seem unfit for a woman, and would be more appropriate traits of a man.
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