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Topics: Macbeth / Pages: 4 (916 words) / Published: Mar 9th, 2013

Macbeth - Critical Essay

Evokes 8. Choose a play in which the relationship between a male and a female character changes significantly.
Show how the relationship between the two characters changes and discuss to what extent this illuminates a central idea of the play.

“Macbeth” is a power-play between: good and evil; between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and between Macbeth, his cousins and his former fellow Thanes. Lady Macbeth and her husband, Macbeth, play out a complicated contest of wills with one another – this is all interwoven with covert assassinations of the nobility, and secret assignations with Witches and thugs. The dynamic of the twists and turns of the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth illuminates the central theme of `vaulting’ ambition.

At the start, their relationship features a common and pooled lust for power; Macbeth treats Lady Macbeth as an equal and initially defers to her impromptu leadership in the coup against the King, his cousin Duncan. They become close partners in crime – Macbeth refers to her at this stage as “my dearest partner in greatness” though she worries that her husband may be “too full o’ the milk of human kindness.” As if on cue, Macbeth starts to briefly examine his conscience regarding this planned coup: [quote as much of the soliloquy by Macbeth in 1 (vii) as you deem useful]

The witches meddled with Macbeth’s ambitions and sanity and it could be said the idea of becoming king would have never come about without them. Macbeth’s attitude and perception changes dramatically during the play; he was a faithful Scottish soldier who followed commands with a pure conscience but by the conclusion of the play Macbeth exploited people to gain power. This corrupted his relationship with his wife.

The affinity between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth at the beginning is strong or so it seems: he rushes home at the excitement of seeing her. They plot together and talk excitedly about their coup together, and many – but not all – their decisions are shared. They seem the perfect couple of rogues; a Scottish soldier fighting in battle but who has his head turned by witches and a loving wife who I snow driven by power lust to murder (and who hosts a royal banquets in hours). Examining their relationship shows just exactly who they really are. Lady Macbeth is a strong woman who seems to have lost a child earlier in life, “I have given suck, and know, How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you, Have done to this.”

Lady Macbeth would rather kill the child than renege on a solemn promise. She plots for Macbeth to be king. She knows Macbeth's doubts need to be overcome quickly and this needs extreme measures. If they delay one night, the chance is gone. The decision to kill Duncan may seem to have been made by both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth but Macbeth’s reluctance even when talking about potentially murdering King Duncan is seen in this quote:

“as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself.”

Macbeth wishes to not commit the murder because of the fear he has of the consequences that would face him and the confused feelings he has of whether he should stay loyal to a king who he admires but, he has an evil and reckless lust of power that urges him on to complete the deed. Lady Macbeth throws all her weight of influence to squash Macbeth’s doubts and pushes him on by bullying him and attacking his sexuality,

“When you durst do it, then you were a man”

Macbeth responds to this insult and clearly associates manhood with the capacity of murder. Lady Macbeth presents initially as a controlling, ambitious, manipulative and power hungry wife, capable of murder. By the end, greatly affected by Macbeth’s slaughter of the innocents, she is a timid, guilt-ridden woman with no control over her husband.

This is where Macbeth turns to an evil, calculating, manipulative murderer. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth at the start, were joined at the hip, knowing what each other was thinking but now they have a huge distance between them because of the decisions Macbeth made without Lady Macbeth. After Macbeth killed Duncan, the two guards, Banquo and attempted to kill Banquo’s son, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were in regret, this in turn created madness within them. Ultimately Macbeth turns into a hated “tyrant,” which is quite a long way from being the beloved thane he once was with the ‘perfect’ marriage he seemed to have.

So, the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth causes the death of Duncan: this relationship is informed by (in order of importance) Macbeth’s own `vaulting’ ambition to be king, the equivocal predictions by the witches, and Lady Macbeth’s ambitious interjections. Lady Macbeth’s influence on Macbeth joints them as a couple. Lady Macbeth was treated with equality by Macbeth and she clearly sought achievement and status in this power. She wanted a power-grab as much as Macbeth did. The power pact was broken by Macbeth when he committed an assassination too far (the Macduff family) this unhinged the partnership in crime and Lady Macbeth who then committed suicide, dramatically signalling the end of their partnership in crime. Macbeth lost his head to Macduff soon after!

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