To what extent do you feel sympathy for Lady Macbeth? Refer to at least two scenes from the play in your answer.
In the play “The Tragedy of Macbeth” written by William Shakespeare, we see a very complex character which is Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's character throughout the play changes as she experiences the misfortunes that are brought to Macbeth and herself. This essay will explore how we as an audience feel sympathy for Lady Macbeth throughout the play, and how this feeling changes as we watch Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is first presented in the play when she receives a letter from her husband explaining that the weird sisters have prophesised his future as king. When she learns that King Duncan will be staying as their guest overnight in their castle at Inverness, she plans a regicide to secure Macbeth's place on the throne. However, Macbeth being "too full o' the milk of human kindness" to attempt such a thing, she plans out the murder and convinces Macbeth to follow through by belittling his manhood. At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is conveyed to the audience as a supremely confident, dominant character. She is extremely determined to fulfil the fate of Macbeth prophesied by the Weird Sisters. This is shown by her soliloquy in Act 1, Scene 5: “The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements.”
Ravens are a symbol of ill-omen, and associated with death. Lady Macbeth has already made up her mind to kill Duncan, and Shakespeare uses the raven to explain the dark determination of her thoughts. Also, Lady Macbeth calls the castle “her battlements”, almost as if she is the master of the castle instead of Macbeth. “...Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here
And fill me from the crown to the toe topfull
Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood...”
Already this early into the play, Lady Macbeth is calling to the demon spirits. She is very superstitious and the references to spirits may make the audience think of magic and sorcery, which have dark connotations. The use of “unsex me here” proves her determination. She is urgent and impatient- asking to remove her womanly characteristics (such as being gentle and kind) so she may have the courage to kill and not feel guilty. Her thirst for power and control overrides her good side. “...That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between
Th'effect and it...”
Not even nature (how things are supposed to be) can deter her plans of regicide. “...no compunctious visitings of nature”. Compunctious (meaning compassionate) is in a stereotypical woman's nature, but Lady Macbeth does not want this. She calls on the spirits to remove these womanly feelings, as she would not be able to carry out her plan if she had them. “...Come to my woman's breasts
And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers...”
Here, as breasts are usually a symbol of one's womanhood, she is bluntly expressing her t wish to stop being a woman by asking for her milk to be removed. Milk symbolises babies and children, which connotes innocence. She is asking for her milk to be changed to gall, a bitter poison. Babies (who drink milk) are known to be innocent, miraculous and a symbol of new life. However, gall connotes death and evil, which is the complete opposite. This is a contrast that Lady Macbeth uses to emphasise the relentless desperation for power. Here, the stereotypical roles of man and wife seem to be overturned- Lady Macbeth is asking the spirits to make her a man, and she describes her husband as “too full o'the milk of human kindness”. As mentioned, milk is a symbol of motherhood and children. By describing her husband as “too full o'the milk”, she means he is too gentle and kind- the emotions she called upon the spirits to remove from her. She is almost an anti-mother figure- she seems to refer to babies with hate. She urges Macbeth to use deception to cloak murderous...
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