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Lady Macbeth

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LADY MACBETH By referring to key scenes, assess how the character of Lady Macbeth is presented in the play. You should compare how Lady Macbeth is characterised in Polanski's version and in Trevor Nunn's RSC production of the play. Which version of the original text do you think makes the greater dramatic impact? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ William Shakespeare based the play on 'Holinshed's Chronicles' and 'Faerie Queen'. It is a Jacobean play, which was written in 1606 for King James I, who was fascinated by witchcraft. The play was set in Scotland; however, in the Polanski adaptation the characters have a strong English accent, whereas a definite Scottish accent is more evident in Trevor Nunn's Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production. The plays are staged very differently. Polanski's version uses a naturalistic setting and characterises Lady Macbeth as feminine. The RSC production is staged with a theatrical black backdrop, which makes it more sombre and reflects the darker side of Lady Macbeth. The soliloquies are more dramatic and revealing against the bland background and therefore are more easily distinguished, from other dialogues in the play. Two very different actresses play the part of Lady Macbeth. She is depicted by the RSC as an older woman, played by Judi Dench, dressed in plain black clothes, her hair covered, and she wears no make-up or jewellery, except earrings. ...read more.


She begs the spirits to "unsex me here", because she sees her gender as a weakness. It is worth noting that in Jacobean England, women gained power, only, through their husband or father. She uses the imperatives, 'come', 'fill', to give her speech a special urgency and determination. When the body of King Duncan is discovered, Lady Macbeth faints. Could this be that she faints to distract attention, as the others might see through her husband's elaborate excuses? Or is it because she is genuinely shocked and overcome and her strength suddenly leaves her? At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth had to use all her influence to persuade Macbeth to murder. After he killed the grooms, without consulting his wife, she became concerned as murder was becoming frighteningly easy for him. Also, Macbeth may have been directing some of his angry words at her. His fury and menace could be really frightening, especially as earlier in the play, Lady Macbeth believed her husband would be to weak to murder the King. Her disbelief is further compounded when she discovered her husband had murdered the grooms, which she was not prepared for: "My hands are of your colour, but I shame To wear a heart so white... A little water clears us of this deed How easy is it, then!" ...read more.


Lady Macbeth seemed to be a very strong-willed person, who could have been perceived as a monster in the early stages of the play. However, at the end she breaks down, and you realise that all she is being is a caring and supportive wife, who only wants the best for her husband and dies because of her fortitude and ambition for him. It is as if she has gone through a metamorphosis of psychological state in that she starts as a strong, driving force, then exercises her ambition by proxy, getting her husband to murder, and finally her mental instability shows through as she cannot cope with the guilt as she realises what she has forced her husband to do in the beginning. Judi Dench was powerful in her role as Lady Macbeth and was well suited to this production. Francesca Annis was also very good in her role in the Polanski version; however, she did not give the articulate as the domineering woman that Lady Macbeth actually was. Macbeth is like a tyrant who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if his wife has coerced him into it in the beginning. There is a contemporary link with recent history, for example, President Milosevic was involved in war crimes, his wife, like Lady Macbeth, was an equally strong character who pushed her husband to even greater things. ...read more.

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