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How is Lady Macbeth presented by Shakespeare? In what ways does she change throughout the course of the play, and how does this affect the audience's response?

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Introduction

How is Lady Macbeth presented by Shakespeare? In what ways does she change throughout the course of the play, and how does this affect the audience's response? "Macbeth" is a play derived from Scottish history, written by Shakespeare in the early 1600's, links between James I and this tragedy are evident. There are various themes running throughout the play, such as ambition, desire, loyalty and power. In this essay I plan to concentrate primarily on Lady Macbeth, making in-depth analysis of the complexities in her character and the way in which she changes throughout the course of the play, soughting out any possible causes for such change, and reason for why Shakespeare may have chosen to present her in any particular way. "Macbeth" follows the guidelines of any typical tragedy (situation - catalyst - complication - climax - denovment.). Lady Macbeth works as the catalyst of the play, her presence in ensures that Macbeth comes to his inevitable downfall. During the time that Shakespeare wrote "Macbeth" the predominantly Christian population of Jacobean England held strong beliefs in witches and the supernatural. King James was particularly interested in these ideas and published a book entitled "Daemonologie". Jacobean people were horrified by the concept of witchcraft and believed that it shut out the heavens. They were prepared to use any method in order to ensure such practises were extinguished. The witches featured in Macbeth exhibit the diabolical powers which they have acquired, such as predicting the future. Lady Macbeth was a character created by Shakespeare to act as a catalyst. She is used to shock the audience, as she is not only the complete inverse of the archetypal Jacobean female, but she is Macbeth's equal in their relationship - at times even the dominant of the two. This was seen as a disturbance in the "Natural Order", where the woman's place was in the home, to be loving and maternal and to fulfil her role as a mother and wife. ...read more.

Middle

("slept", sleep is something that will later plague Macbeth). When she notices that she has affected Macbeth with these words she proceeds to accuse him of cowardice, "Art thou afeard to be in the same on thine own act and valour as thou art in desire" She asks Macbeth whether he is really worthy of his name. He is renowned for his courageous behaviour and bravery on the battle field, yet shows such fear in commiting to something he had sworn to do. This is an important part in Lady Macbeth's attack when trying to persuade Macbeth, as in order to gain such a rank and furthermore such commendation from his fellows he is required to be worthy of such a role, to be brave and show cold blooded ambition on the battle field. Lady Macbeth plays on this and asks why he cannot make such commitment outside the field. "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 plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this." This is probably one of the most shocking statements by Lady Macbeth in the whole of the play. She has proven to be the complete opposite to any archetypical female, let alone wife of the time. The imagery used is extremely violent, and most likely used as a shock tactic by Lady Macbeth to really strike Macbeth with what she is saying. Shakespeare most likely used the imagery to shock and dismay the audience, and to expose the evil driving force behind the Macbeths' plan to come to the throne. She also emphasizes the fact, that had she made promise to Macbeth that she would undertake a deed, she would do so no matter the consequences. ...read more.

Conclusion

He believes that the only way she will be cured is through God's mercy, and states that in this unusual case a doctor is of little use. "More needs she the divine than the Physician:" . The most pity the audience feel for Lady Macbeth is more than likely in 5:5, as they can see Macbeth's final words for her are (most likely) uttered in an indifferent tone, possibly with the feeling that she eventually became a lost cause "She should have died hereafter; There would have been time for such a word.". Perhaps the audience eventually feel pity for Lady Macbeth, but only a pity that lives within the confines of her hardness and cruelty. Can true pity be felt for such a woman? Throughout the play Lady Macbeth is potrayed as an evil, manipulative woman - often compared with the Weird Sisters to accentuate the illegitimate means in which she gains power. Contrary to this, one can also see Lady Macbeth as an object of pity, she is a character whose ambition drove her to fight against herself - her desire forcing her to repress her feelings of guilt in order to stay strong. Such repression eventually takes its toll on Lady Macbeth, as we see in 5:1 she is left in a pitiful state of hysteria, unable to control her actions and in desperate search of any form of redemption. Such a wish for purification eventually leads her to take her own life, or so it is believed. The disentigration of Lady Macbeth's character may be seen by the audience as a moral to the play, it seems to warn of the dangers that women in power pose. It appears that women in power in this patriarchal society are demonised if they step out of the conforms of the "Natural Order", it will supposedly cause great unrest. Throughout the scenes leading up to Duncan's murder indirect comparisons between Lady Macbeth and "Eve" the biblical character can be seen. In persuading Macbeth to kill Duncan Lady Macbeth appears as Eve, the servant of the serpent, tempting Adam into damnation. ...read more.

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