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Explore Shakespeare(TM)s Presentation of Lady Macbeth

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Explore Shakespeare's Presentation of Lady Macbeth In the time Shakespeare was writing Macbeth there were many new ideas and concepts coming forward and the country was changing. There was growing tension between parliament and the King, resulting in many debates about kingship and what makes a good king and growing tension between Protestants and Catholics, resulting in plots and rebellion like the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. There were sharp divisions between rich and poor and society at the time was dominated by men. The church was very influential. Plays at the time often reflected political situations and taught moral lessons, and Macbeth, written in the early 1600s, echoes all the changes and tension present in the country at the time. In particular, Shakespeare focuses on the issues of kingship through Macbeth's struggles to, and on, the throne but it is Lady Macbeth that demonstrates how women were perceived in the male-dominated culture and the links between good and evil that are subtly examined by Shakespeare throughout the play. The way that women were perceived in Shakespeare's time is shown by widespread belief in witchcraft. Witches were believed to be women who had sold their soul to the devil in exchange for doing evil deeds. This suggests that women at the time could not be too powerful or independent and that women were maybe the inferior sex as they were easily coaxed into evil. ...read more.


It may have also been believed that witches stole and killed infants and as Lady Macbeth is willing to do so, it suggests that she is a like a witch. Her lack of a child with Macbeth might also have made her more willing to suggest that she would kill a baby as she would not have any maternal urges towards sheltering any babies. Macbeth goes to commit the murder whilst Lady Macbeth stays behind wondering how he is faring. At this point, Lady Macbeth can be said to act conventionally as she is waiting for her husband to return from doing an unpleasant act that was deemed unacceptable for women to do. Her streak of femininity is continued as she begins to worry. "Alack, I am afraid they have awaked" she says to herself showing that she is worrying about either the plan or Macbeth. If she is worrying about the plan failing, that could be argued to be a feminine trait as typically women worry more than men. If she is worrying about Macbeth and his safety, this would mean she is acting as a conventional wife as she is showing concern for her husband, as a wife should do. Some vulnerability is shown by Lady Macbeth as she tells of her reason why she could not have committed the murder herself. ...read more.


People who were bewitched or possessed would act unnaturally, suggesting that Lady Macbeth is bewitched. To show the audience that Lady Macbeth is losing her mind, Shakespeare changes the language that she uses. During her sleepwalking speech, Lady Macbeth talks in prose, rather than blank verse to show to the audience Lady Macbeth's descent into madness. Shakespeare also employs stagecraft to show the audience what Lady Macbeth is feeling. While she is sleepwalking, she performs the action of washing her hands - 'Yet here's a spot... Out, damned spot! Out, I say!'. This is to show the audience that she is trying to wash the blood off of her hands and so wash herself free of the guilt she feels for the murders. Through the entire play, Lady Macbeth is shown to have two sides, to have a seemingly innocent side and then to have a masculine, manipulative and evil side. With this manly and sinful streak, Lady Macbeth managed to influence her husband into committing crimes that he would not have committed on his own willpower. Because of this, Lady Macbeth could be said to be the one to blame for all the crimes that her husband committed; Macbeth can be said to be a "butcher" and Lady Macbeth his "fiendlike queen". Rarely does Lady Macbeth act as women should act and this could be Shakespeare showing that women have an immoral and controlling side which they do not show. ...read more.

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