Shakespeare's Representation of the Perspectives of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth Concerning the Murder of Duncan

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Developing the personas of characters is an important technique in all texts that make use of characterisation because it enables the plot to develop a certain depth and tension that can only come with varied and conflicting perspectives. In his renowned dramatic script of the tragedy of “Macbeth,” Shakespeare has cleverly crafted the perspectives of its two main characters, Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, through his use of language techniques, which when read, enhance meaning in the minds of responders. Such language devices as personification, metaphors, similes, bloody and religious imagery, irony, dramatic irony, hyperbole and recurring motifs of clothes and emasculation used within the dialogue and soliloquies reflect the thoughts and attitudes of the characters toward the act of murder and the victim himself, Duncan, King of Scotland.

Prior to the murder of Duncan, the conflicting outlooks of Macbeth and his wife concerning the deed were predominantly emphasised within duologues and soliloquies (the act of speaking while alone), through which the most accurate insight into Macbeth’s conscious thoughts is enabled. Macbeth’s attitude toward the deed is characterised by a nervous ambivalence, where two distinct and opposing factors waged war within his mind: that which was acquiescent and eager to murder Duncan, and that which feared the consequences. In Act 1, scene 7, Macbeth expresses his opposition to killing Duncan, who he regarded as having “borne his faculties so meek… that his virtues will plead like angels… and Pity… shall blow the horrid deed in every eye.” In this quote, the personification of Duncan’s talents combined with the religious imagery within the simile of “pleading like angels” serves to emphasise Macbeth’s acculturated belief in Duncan’s position (as King) at the top of the “chain of being” and hence, accentuates the consequences of the murder. Macbeth’s fear of being caught and experiencing retribution then compels him to personify the pity he and others would feel as a negative force that would contribute to his downfall. However, in scene 5, Macbeth considers his obstacles to the crown in an aside, saying, “The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down, or else e’erleap, for in my way it lies.” This presents Macbeth’s more practical and callous thoughts, free from sentiment. In this state of mind, he is able to contemplate the path that is required to fulfil his ambition. By comparing Malcolm, the Prince of Cumberland, to a step or physical obstruction, Macbeth dehumanises him and presents jumping over the obstacle in a more simple light, reinforcing his willingness to act. The following lines, “Stars hide you fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires” is further evidence of this fact. Macbeth’s mind is largely set by his ambition and he finds that he needs to check himself to ensure that he doesn’t give away his intentions thought his expressions.

At the same time, the perspectives of Lady Macbeth are evident though her duologues with Macbeth, to whom she feels she must bolster and “chastise with the valour of [her] tongue.” Lady Macbeth’s attitudes towards the murder are dominated by the same spirit that could be seen in Macbeth’s crueller moments, as previously discussed. Lady Macbeth intensions, however, remain steady in her mind, reflecting a notion that she may want the Crown more than her husband. Her harshness is evident in the metaphor, “O never shall sun that morrow see” where she implies with ruthless enthusiasm, that Duncan would never see the next morning. Her intentions are also reflected in her quote, “He that's coming must be provided for.” Here, dramatic irony is used to create a feeling among the audience that Lady Macbeth is truly pitiless, thus reflecting her attitude that it is best to dehumanise the victim (“That my keen knife see not the wound it makes”) and simply see her actions as a means to an end. She is appalled by the idea...
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