In Shakespeare’s play, The tragedy of Macbeth, the character Macbeth develops profoundly from the first act till the end, and his change is driven by his wife and her ideal of manliness, described in Jerold Ramsey’s article “The Perversion of Manliness in Macbeth”. Macbeth begins as a respected and honest soldier in Act 1, but he is changed following his murdering of the innocent king in Act 2. Through Acts 3 and 4 Macbeth continues to become less and less of a moral character due to his committing of even more murders. In Act 5 Macbeth is finally lost touch with his humanity and meets his demise. This development of Macbeth from a honorable and moral noble to a wicked king was set in motion by Lady Macbeth , who planned the murderer of Duncan, undermined Macbeth’s manliness, and mocked his humanity, led to the downfall of Macbeth as a good person.
At the start of the play, Macbeth receives a prophecy from the Weird Sisters foretelling his ascension to the throne of Scotland. This news of the prophecy, along with news of a visit from the king prompt Lady Macbeth to call upon spirits to take away all of her womanly traits. “Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood…”(1,5.47-50). Lady Macbeth did this because she feared that Macbeth could not commit murderer. Macbeth at this time still has a strong underlying sense of morality, and although he does have a sense of ambition, he does not want to commit murderer in cold blood to achieve his goals. Ramsey proposes that Lady Macbeth twists her interpretation of manliness after contemplating Macbeth’s unwillingness to kill Duncan “Greatness must be divorced from goodness, highness of estate from holiness, “the nearest way” from “Human kindness”- (287).
This detachment of ambition from personal relationships and morality are central to Lady Macbeth’s view of manliness in the play....
Bibliography: Jarold Ramsey, “The Perversion of Manliness in Macbeth.” Studies In English Literature, 51.3.
(1973): 287,9. Jstor. 12/9/12.
Shakespeare William. The Tragedy of Macbeth.
Folger Shakespeare Library. Barbara A Mowat, Paul Werstine.
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