Analysis: Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth is the epitome of an ambitious woman who will do anything, including murder, to get what she wants. She is very calculating, and this is very evident when she plots to murder King Duncan. She methodically manipulated her husband, Macbeth, into believing it was the right thing to do in order for him to become king. During the time period that this play was written, women were viewed as weak and demure individuals who rely on the strength of their male partners. Lady Macbeth defies this characterization of women by taking on the role of a strong, sinister individual who used her husband as an accomplice to commit murder for her own gain. However, even the most sinister individuals can develop a conscience that can sometimes lead to their demise, as in the case of Lady Macbeth. In Lady Macbeth’s famous “unsex me” speech prior to the murder, she implored the gods to make her less like a woman and more like a man so that she can carry out her evil deeds without guilt. She says, “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me, from the crown to the toe, to full of direst cruelty!” (Macbeth 1.5.39-42). Her speech illustrates that she sees men as masculine and women as weak and vulnerable. She views men as beings who are willing to kill for their personal gain, without any sense of remorse. She wants desperately to have the characteristics of the consummate male who exhibits strength and has a fearless disposition, even when committing murder. She felt that women are too weak and vulnerable to take on the characteristics of a man, so she wanted to be rendered free of these traits. Ironically, even though Macbeth is a man and Lady Macbeth is a woman, she was exhibiting the very characteristics that she admires in a man, more so than Macbeth. In fact, Lady Macbeth berates her husband for not being man enough to carry out her evil plan. “However, her guilt-filled sleepwalking and later suicide register therefore as bodiless signs of her corruption and as self-punishment for her transgressive, evil ways” (Thomas). Lady Macbeth manipulates gender values and expectations to suit her own purposes (Thomas). She used her influence as a woman and as his wife to convince Macbeth that he should commit murder in the name of being a man (Jameson). Lady Macbeth assumes the masculine role in the relationship by rejecting typical gender roles and embracing a controlling and power-hungry attitude. She was so desperate for power that she may have wanted Duncan dead so she can become Queen more than she wanted Macbeth to become King. This is evidenced by her tenacity to carry her plot through to the end. However, Lady Macbeth reverts to her feminine role when the guilt of committing murder overwhelms her to the point of insanity and ultimately suicide. As mentioned earlier, during the era that this play was written, Lady Macbeth’s character traits were not the norm for women. However, in today’s society, women are viewed as being more powerful and capable of getting their needs met by any means necessary, similar to Lady Macbeth. As a result, powerful women are seen as role models who fulfill the ideals of what it means to be a strong woman. However, murdering someone to reach that ideal is taking it to the extreme, as in the case of Lady Macbeth. This story illuminates the fact that guilt and conscience, also referred to as moral constitution, are sometimes more powerful than the evil deeds that we commit. Prior to committing the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth exhibits a strong and determined disposition and was resolved in carrying out the murder. However, after seeing how her influence has transformed Macbeth into a ruthless monster that would kill anyone in his way, she began to agonize over the negative influence she had on him. Lady Macbeth was profoundly affected by her transgressions as evidenced by her persistent sleepwalking and talking in her sleep. During one of...
Cited: Thomas, Catherine. “(UN)SEXING LADY MACBETH: GENDER, POWER, AND VISUAL RHETORIC IN HER GRAPHIC AFTERLIVES.” Internet Online. Database: Ebscohost. 2012. < http://web.a.ebscohost.com/> Accessed March 27, 2014.
Jameson, Anna. "Lady Macbeth." Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. Accessed March 27, 2014.
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