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Look carefully at Lady Macbeth in Act I; Scene v, and Act V; Scene i. How do her character and attitudes seem to change between the two scenes?

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Introduction

Look carefully at Lady Macbeth in Act I; Scene v, and Act V; Scene i. How do her character and attitudes seem to change between the two scenes? In Shakespearean England, women's role in society was very different to what it is today. Today, women are allowed, and in fact, almost expected to be educated, independent, confidant, outspoken, and to go to work, to provide for themselves. In the 1600's, it wasn't like that. Women were gentle, kind, and fragile. If they were well off, they were expected to stay at home and sew, whilst their husbands went out and earnt the money. Poorer women still had to stay at home, and they had to cook, clean, and generally look after the house. Women were submissive; to be seen and not heard, and it was unusual for a woman to be educated. Lady Macbeth is not typical of a woman from Shakespeare's time, and we see that when we first meet her in Act I, Scene v, where she is reading a letter from Macbeth, telling her of his experience with the 'weird sisters' and their predictions. ...read more.

Middle

She fears that Macbeth is 'too full o'th'milk of human nature', and, even though he is ambitious, she doesn't think he would kill the king to get what she wants. Lady Macbeth also talks about how she wants to be 'unsexed'; she wants her breasts filled with poison instead of milk. The fact that she focuses on her breasts is significant; she wants to rid herself of the most feminine part of her, the part that represents being a woman. By wishing away the milk in her breasts she is wishing away the feelings of love, gentleness and tenderness that goes with being a mother. However, though she is wishing away her femininity, she uses a female method of getting her way; she manipulates Macbeth into agreeing to kill the king when he refuses later in the play. She repeatedly attacks him and wears down his defence, first questioning his love for her, and then criticising him as a man. ...read more.

Conclusion

When they first killed the king, she told Macbeth that 'a little water will clear us of this deed', and though there is no more blood there physically, she can now see it in her mind, and to her it is very real, and it represents her guilty conscience. Lady Macbeth is a very good actress, because she seems quite calm and composed when around company, when she is really going mad. Though the scene is short, it shows that in the same way as ambition affected her more strongly than it did Macbeth before the crimes, guilt plagues her more strongly afterwards. She is unable to cope with this, but obviously cannot admit it to anyone, and so her mind deals with it when she is sleeping instead. There is a common theme of power and control in both scenes; in the first scene when Lady Macbeth is trying to convince Macbeth that they should murder Duncan, she is powerful and controlling, but in the second scene where Lady Macbeth has completely lost control. ...read more.

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