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How does Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's relationship change and develop during the play?

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Introduction

Grace French 11N How does Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's relationship change and develop during the play? At the start of the play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are seen as a united couple. They appear to have no secrets from one another, and seem to the audience as though they are equal: "My dearest partner of greatness" - this is what Macbeth calls his wife - partner signifying equality and greatness suggesting standing. During the course of the play, their relationship faces serious obstacles and strains are put on their loyalties to one another. At times, Lady Macbeth is the driving force in their relationship as she seeks to advance her husband; at other times Macbeth appears to be running the show. They become more separate in their lives with one another, they keep secrets and pursue a path, which ends in tragic consequences. Macbeth is portrayed as a great warrior, a hero: "brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name." - the sergeant praises Macbeth's savagery. Following his acquaintance with the witches, Macbeth immediately writes to his wife to tell her what they had said: "Thou shalt be king hereafter". Upon hearing this news, Lady Macbeth starts to contemplate murder. With the King, Duncan, out of the way, the path would be clear for her husband. Macbeth has already had similar thoughts: "My thought, whose murder yet is fantastical" he reveals in Act I, Scene 3 however, so far in the play, neither has had the chance to discuss these thoughts with the other. ...read more.

Middle

He realises that there could be difficulties in killing Duncan. Not only does he worry about the consequences but he is unhappy about this ultimate betrayal and disloyalty to his kinsman and King: "strong both against the deed" - these are strong reasons for preventing this murder. He also worries that ambition - his motive for the murder - could prove his undoing: "Vaulting ambition, which o'er-leaps itself And falls on the other"; maybe he will not be up to the job, will land on the horses back only to fall off on the other side. Lady Macbeth however, is very manipulative and manoeuvres her husband by questioning his manliness: "Art thou afeard...?", "Live a coward in thine own esteem". She suggests to her husband that if he cannot face this murder then her opinion of him will alter; she will consider him a coward. She goes as far as saying that she, in order to honour a promise, would even go as far as to kill her own baby: "I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this". Shakespeare's language is highly descriptive and uses fierce, graphic, shocking imagery to enable the character of Lady Macbeth to convince and manipulate her husband into committing this terrible deed. Despite Lady Macbeth's earlier protestations, we find in Act 2 evidence to suggest she cannot remain as remote from events as she would have liked. ...read more.

Conclusion

Macbeth's final speech in this scene reveals a lot about how he is feeling at this point in the play. He says that "Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill" - deeds that are started with evil grow stronger with more evil. Later in Scene 4 he compounds these words: "I am in blood Stepp'd in so far, that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er" - he feels that he is now in so deep that he has passed the point of no return. Becoming King should have been the pinnacle of Macbeth's life but his relationship with his wife is under great strain. He is keeping dreadful secrets from her. He has terrible dreams and feels that he can trust no one. They both feel threatened especially when Fleance survives the attempt on his life, as they know that Banquo's descendants will become kings in spite of all Macbeth's efforts. In Act 5 we see the final corruption of the lives of Macbeth and his wife. Lady Macbeth becomes obsessed with her guilt and takes to sleep walking, eternally seeking to wash the blood from her hands - something which she had thought so easy to do in Act 2. By contrast, her husband is again a man of action and returns to the battlefield. Lady Macbeth dies a pitiful and guilt-ridden death whilst her husband, although a sad man who considers life pointless: "full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing." dies with some dignity as a fearless warrior. ...read more.

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