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How does Shakespeare present the character of Lady Macbeth in 'Macbeth'?

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At the end of the play, Malcolm refers to Lady Macbeth as a 'fiend-like Queen.' Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Lady Macbeth Malcolm gives Lady Macbeth this description in the last speech in the play after he has been named the King of Scotland. He is declaring that the reign of Macbeth and his wife has ended and that his has begun. When he refers to Lady Macbeth as a 'fiend-like Queen', Malcolm is implying that he considered her deceitful, conniving and a plotter. Similarly, he refers to Macbeth as a 'butcher' because he killed so many people, each covering up the one that preceded it. One might feel that the description that Malcolm has given Lady Macbeth is accurate as it not only describes her character as fiendish but also as a Queen, which reinforces the power she held, albeit shortly. To have a character such as Lady Macbeth feature in such a poignant and important role in the play back in Elizabethan times was highly unorthodox. Women were not allowed to perform on stage and men played women's roles, explaining why there are so few roles for women in plays from the Elizabethan period. Luckily, Shakespeare did not like having restrictions put upon him to say what kinds of characters he could and could not have in his plays. Lady Macbeth's character embodies a resistance to play by the rules. When the play was written in around 1608, to have a female character going against female stereotypes so strongly, concealing some rather dark emotions and having the ability to have power over her husband early on in the play was most irregular. Nowadays though, when people go to the theatre to see a play, a character like Lady Macbeth would not have as great an effect than it did on audiences living in Elizabethan times. This is because, thanks to feminism and a much-delayed protest for women's rights, complex female characters are no longer as uncommon as they used to be. ...read more.


This is surprising, as the audience considers her a ruthless, fiendish character. Now, however, she has a background and a valid reason for not carrying out the murder which conflicts with the presentation of her character so far in the play. Macduff and Lenox both seem to be uncertain as to who the real murderer of King Duncan is and suspect Macbeth, due to his exaggerated speech over being really upset with regard to the murder. Lady Macbeth realises what is going on and faints, to draw attention away from Macbeth. This is, for the second time, showing how incompetent she thinks he is but at the same time shows how perceptive a character she is to notice the suspicions hanging over her husband's head. By Act 3, Scene 2, there has been a obvious power shift. Macbeth is now the King of Scotland, having taken over the title from Duncan. Macbeth says that he feels guilty though and that he is having bad dreams. At this point, Macbeth has arranged Banquo's murder by means of two murderers. The fashion in which Lady Macbeth speaks to Macbeth in this scene could be considered patronising, she says: "sleek o'er your rugged looks; Be bright and jovial among your guests tonight." It creates the image of a mother, grooming her son before an important Christmas meal with the whole family. This kind of behaviour has been consistent throughout the play so far, how she still thinks of herself as the dominant one even though her husband is the most powerful man in Scotland. Macbeth, meanwhile, due to the elevated level of power the title of King of Scotland has given him and the knowledge that he holds of Banquo's fate feels more confident and, although he still listens to what his wife tells him to do, does so with more disdain than before. Macbeth's choice not to reveal the planned murder of Banquo to Lady Macbeth emphasizes the new poise he holds, how he has more confidence in himself because he has carried out a murder and become King. ...read more.


When her craving is fulfilled by becoming Queen of Scotland, she has nothing else to live for. Because she has accomplished her dream to have a lot of power, she realises all too late that it is the end of the road after that. Her time which used to be spent aspiring is now spent feeling guilty over the deaths that her husband committed. When she speaks to others, but Macbeth is particular, her speeches were often longer than the person she was talking to, indicating that she held the dominance in the conversation. Now though, in this scene, Shakespeare wants us to see that her speeches consist of maybe two or three lines, showing that her importance has disappeared and now her sanity is slowly being eaten away at. Because, in her language, she is reliving past experiences, this just adds to the fact that she has nothing else to live for, and so can only relive events that have already happened. When Malcolm refers to Lady Macbeth as a 'fiend-like Queen' at the end of the play, I initially said that I felt the description was accurate and that she deserved to be labelled this. After fully reviewing the play and trying to understand the character of Lady Macbeth, I am going to change my opinion. I do feel that the approach favoured by her to obtain what she wants was not the right one and I therefore agree that Malcolm has given a correct portrayal of her character. However, she only took the route she did because she felt that all the others were cut-off. She was desperate to achieve what she wanted, but she was too na�ve to think about what may happen after she achieved this. Shakespeare was not trying to teach Elizabethan society a lesson, as other authors choose to do, but was just trying to create a female character who creates an impact and can be just as complex as other male counterparts. ...read more.

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