The Relationship Between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Act I, Scene Vii

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How is the theme of the influence of women on men explored in Act I, scene vii of Shakespeare’s Macbeth?

An old proverb states that behind every successful man stands a strong woman. Surprisingly for a play set in the Middle Ages, like William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this saying remains valid. The renowned tragedy chronicles the downfall of Macbeth, a distinguished warrior who yields to the corrupting force of his ambition for the Scottish throne. In his malevolent quest for power, he is accompanied, if not firmly guided, by his ruthless wife. Indeed, in Act I, scene vii Macbeth has almost renounced to murder of the king, but Lady Macbeth reinforces his determination to commit the regicide. Through her manipulative strategies in this scene, Shakespeare reveals the dominant role of women over men. First, Lady Macbeth achieves ascendancy over her husband’s will by questioning his manhood. She implies that Macbeth’s doubts about Duncan’s assassination signify his lack of valor; his sensible reasons against it are mere excuses not appropriate for a real man: “And to be more than what you were [a man], you would/ be so much more the man” (l. 50-51). Lady Macbeth maintains that a man should not only have the audacity to make a plight, but should also execute his promises. Presenting one of the play’s most appalling examples about the smashing of the infant, she further deprecates Macbeth’s trepid. This accusation becomes the most powerful argument to provoke Macbeth to act in accordance to his male honor. The resolute woman develops her strategy in order to undermine further her husband’s dignity: “From this time/ such I account thy love” (l.38-39). In other words, she abandons her love unless Macbeth retrieves his courage. Here, Shakespeare refers indirectly to the moment in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale“when Pertelote asserts that Chanticleer, acting so cowardly, does not deserve her love. The fact that both a Medieval and a Renaissance character...
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