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To what extent can Lady Macbeth be seen as a female gothic protagonist at the start of the play?

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Introduction

Octavia Connolly 6SLH (Mrs Layton) To what extent can Lady Macbeth be seen as a female gothic protagonist at the start of the play? At first meeting, Lady Macbeth appears to us as a ruthless predator, an emancipated woman driven by an all-consuming passion and displaying perfectly, the antithesis of womanhood. She has, it seems, acquired all the necessary requirements to fill the role of a female gothic protagonist. Whether or not she utilises these factors to the full extent and can really be called the protagonist will be discussed in further detail. Her character is not unveiled until Act I Scene V where, with the use of three speeches, she exposes the workings of her mind and lay it out for the audience. Her second speech displays perfectly the idea of Lady Macbeth as a ruthless predator. She calls on the supernatural to ?unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty!? She asks them to ?Stop up the access and passage to remorse? and to ?make thick? her blood. ...read more.

Middle

In her second speech, she speaks to these ?spirits? and asks that they ?come to my woman?s breasts, And take my milk for gall?? This line turns this universally natural feature of womanhood into something dark and troubling. Adding to this, the suggestion of changing a mother?s milk, what she feeds her children on, to poison, is a disgusting one. Further on in the play, Shakespeare manipulates this perversion of motherhood again when Lady Macbeth conveys a fantasy of infanticide: ?I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash'd the brains out?? This horrific image is so against the searing love a mother feels for her child, that it is impossible for the reader to accept that Lady Macbeth fully comprehends firstly, what she is saying and secondly, that maternal love despite her previous statement of ?I know how tender ?tis to love the babe that milks me?? However, Shakespeare has allowed the reader room for doubt. ...read more.

Conclusion

She continues in similar vein: ?Come to my woman?s breasts, / And take my milk for gall? (1.5.45-46). Her communing with the forces of darkness is expressed in terms that seek to remove the ?compunctious visitings? of her female nature. Later, in one of the play?s most disturbing images, Lady Macbeth expresses a fantasy of infanticide: 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 pluck?d my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out However, when it comes to her manipulation of Macbeth, she adopts the powerful weapon of sexual taunting: Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valour As thou art in desire? When you durst do it, then you were a man. Lady Macbeth?s evil allows her at one and the same time to deny her maternal nature and to control her husband by invoking her sexuality. It is this capacity to distort her female identity to gain her political ends that makes Lady Macbeth at once a potent force for evil and a transgressive figure of the female gothic. ...read more.

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