William Shakespere wrote Macbeth around 1606 for King James VI.
Macbeth involves 3 witches who make prophecies for Macbeth about taking the throne. Ambition and desire drive Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to kill King Duncan. Later Banquo is killed due to Macbeth?s greed for the throne and jealousy of it being taken away and Lady Macbeth appears to go mad and die. Macbeth is then defeated. These themes of murder, ambition, greed and desire appear throughout the play among others. These themes are factors towards the portrayal of Lady Macbeth and contribute to changes that take place in her character and also how the audience responds to this.
I will explore how Shakespeare uses these themes among other things to present Lady Macbeth?s character and how she changes throughout the play to the audience.
Lady Macbeth?s character does not, initially conform to the typical role of women, especially in the 17th century when women weren?t even allowed to act on stage. However perhaps a more modern audience may see her character differently due to increasing equality and the role of women in the 21st century. I will be exploring how roles in society affect the audience?s response as well.
The audience?s initial impressions of Lady Macbeth are from her first entrance where she is reading a letter from Macbeth. This he ?thought good to deliver? to her who is his ?dearest partner of greatness?. The fact that Macbeth writes her a letter informing her of his business with the witches gives the audience an initial impression that Lady Macbeth plays an important role in their relationship, for him to feel that he must automatically tell her the news suggesting that she has power over him and that she has the right to know. Even Macbeth before this point does not mention Lady Macbeth when she appears with the letter. This is similar to how the 3 witches just appear and ?vanish in mist?, indicating that perhaps Shakespeare was trying to initially portray Lady Macbeth as similar to a witch. This is also seen in her dominating and ambitious character, which is also seen in her introduction when she says ? I may pour my spirits in thine ear, and chastice with the valour of my tongue? suggesting that she wants to dictate and tell him how to handle the situation. This attitude from a woman at this point would have seemed very strange and wouldn?t have conformed to the typical role of women who were seen as inferior. Therefore this suggests that Shakespeare portrays Lady Macbeth in this way to indicate strange and not normal qualities, which an audience in the 17th century would have seen as witch-like. However Lady Macbeth is never referred to by her first name, only by Macbeths name indicating some influence from society at the point that the play was written.
Lady Macbeth goes on, after reading the letter to evaluate and analyse her husband?s strengths and weakness? for becoming king. This alone indicates that she feels she has some sort of higher position to have the right to analyse her husband, who, at this point would have been seen as superior to her. She says, ?Thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition? indicating that she feels he would be a good king due to his ambitious nature. However she also says that does ?fear thy nature? which is ?to full o?th? milk of human kindness?. She?s saying that he is too soft to be king suggesting that she feels ?human kindness? is a weakness. The fact that she uses milk and ?human kindness? to describe his weakness, again portrays her as quite abnormal and perhaps inhuman because of her use of normal human activity as a weakness.
When it is announced that King Duncan is to stay at Macbeth?s castle, Lady Macbeth?s response reveals further traits of her character to the audience. As soon as the attendant is gone, Lady Macbeth states that the ?raven himself is a hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements?. The imagery of a raven indicates death for Duncan,...
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