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Discuss how Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth and how her character develops during the play

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Introduction

Discuss how Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth and how her character develops during the play 'Macbeth' is a Shakespearian tragedy about a patriotic Scottish captain who is tricked and coerced into killing his King. He allows his own ambition and heart's desire to become King to rule his head: a concept in Shakespearian times which must lead to tragedy and inevitable death. Macbeth's 'dearest partner of greatness', Lady Macbeth, is a key figure in Macbeth's life. Her understanding and manipulation of her husband's ambitions and weaknesses enable her to convince him of their infallibility and of his true destiny to become King of Scotland. By closely examining Lady Macbeth's personality - how she behaves and what she says - it is clear that throughout the course of the play her character changes from a loving, decisive, strong wife to a woman driven to guilt and madness. A contemporary audience might not see Lady Macbeth in the same light as an Elizabethan audience because women's roles have dramatically changed. A 17th century woman of Lady Macbeth's standing would be expected to look after the home and oversee domestic chores. She would also have to support her husband and would usually appear quite submissive, accepting all his decisions. Lady Macbeth however, has a different relationship with her husband. They are more like equals; Macbeth values her; listens and respects her advice and suggestions. Yet in his weak and flagging moments she dominates, controls, challenges, contradicts and even mocks him. This would be shocking to an Elizabethan audience because traditionally it would only be the husband, i.e. Macbeth, who would control the relationship and make important decisions. So to see Lady Macbeth, a woman, influencing her husband so passionately would be more shocking to a Shakespearian audience than a 21st century one, where women, particularly in Western society, have achieved a much more equal and independent role in relationships. ...read more.

Middle

She had remained calm, cool and calculating. She is always in control directing Macbeth's performance and guiding him towards his destiny. It is not until Lady Macbeth presents her fool-proof plan that he begins to realise that he can do this. Macbeth has given in to Lady Macbeth, her persuasion techniques of goading and manipulating; they have prevailed and forced Macbeth into action. Macbeth, however, does not realise this and instead is pleased and proud of his wife, complimenting her 'Bring forth men-children only'. In Elizabethan times giving birth to a son was a symbol of being a strong woman so this is one of the highest compliments Macbeth could have paid her. By the end of this scene the audience's impressions of Lady Macbeth as a strong, calculating wife who is ambitious for her husband have been consolidated. During Act 2, Scenes 1 and 2 we get the first insight into Lady Macbeth's true feelings about what she and her husband are going to do. Although Lady Macbeth's adrenaline is heightened 'hath made me bold' 'hath given me fire' she is also, understandably, nervous jumping at every little sound 'Hark!...It was the owl that shrieked'. This is the fist time the audience has seen Lady Macbeth, shaken. It is clear to the audience now, that although she has never said anything and remains confident on the outside, she too is anxious about the outcome of the murder. This once again, highlights the sense of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth working as a team; as Macbeth is carrying out the murder Lady Macbeth is going through step by step what Macbeth ought to be doing at each stage. This not only emphasises their unity but is also an integral part in calming herself down. In this scene we also catch a first glimpse of Lady Macbeth's humanity, a weakness 'Had he not resembled/ My father as he slept, I had done it'. ...read more.

Conclusion

She committed the worst treason possible and must suffer the consequences: her death must not be easy. We hear of Lady Macbeth's suspected suicide offstage '[a cry within of women]' and the impersonal statement 'The Queen, my lord, is dead'. This is the end that the audience has been waiting for. Lady Macbeth is expected to suffer for all her sins: invoking the evil spirits and persuading her husband to commit treason. The fact that Lady Macbeth dies off-stage underlines her now insignificance to the main events of the play. The audience now focus on Macbeth and highlights Lady Macbeth's diminishing role as a vital influence to Macbeth. Not even Macbeth has the time to mourn for her. I think, at the beginning of the play Lady Macbeth we saw a strong, confident, ambitious woman who was willing to do anything, including experimenting with the supernatural and committing treason, in order to get her husband to fulfil his destiny. During the course of the play, I feel that she comes to realise that her sacrifices have not given her the joy and satisfaction she had hoped for. Instead, she begins to realise that there is no escaping the consequences of their actions and she has to spend her life consumed with worry and guilt. I feel particularly sorry for Lady Macbeth when Macbeth becomes more dependent on the witches especially as she has dedicated herself purely to his success and is left a lonely woman. I realise that Lady Macbeth had to die for just punishment for her deeds and even though she has shocked and horrified the audience, they cannot fail to be moved by her death. I think it is a tragic end for a misguided woman who ultimately only wanted to support her husband and I think the description of 'fiend like queen' is too extreme. Even though we cannot condone what Lady Macbeth did, we can definitely understand her motives. ?? ?? ?? ?? Alex Kingcome 10:0 ...read more.

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