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To what extent do you agree with Malcolm's description of Lady Macbeth as a "fiend- like queen"?

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Introduction

To what extent do you agree with Malcolm's description of Lady Macbeth as a "fiend- like queen"? Lady Macbeth is without doubt, one of William Shakespeare's most infamous, interesting and notable creations. She is a character whose dramatic actions provoke a similarly dramatic change of opinion and reaction from the enthralled audience; who see her at first as a devoted wife and then recoil with utmost horror and revulsion at her appeal to the spirits to "unsex" her and fill her with "direst cruelty". Finally, the audience cannot help but feel sympathy when "by self and violent hands (she) took of her life". In Shakespeare's time, women were identified with a homemaking and childbearing role. They had no input in to their husband's affairs, and certainly would have not taken on an advisory role. Lady Macbeth bears no resemblance to that description or to that role; in fact, she is clearly the more dominant partner in the marriage and she is very much in control of her husband who regards her as his "dearest partner of greatness". Her assertiveness would have been unbelievable to an Elizabethan audience, which leads us to the play's major theme of appearance versus reality. Lady Macbeth is very clever in that she plays on the accepted view of women at the time. Although she appears like a polite and ordinary wife, she is actually a remarkable woman, full of thoughts that would be frightening, not only by Elizabethan standards, but also by today's standards too- even women in the modern world who plan murders are regarded as 'unnatural'. Her outward appearance fools a lot of characters in the play, and plays a part in the death of Duncan, who thought that she was a 'charming hostess' on the night she was actually planning his murder. Ironically, it was Duncan who said "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face". ...read more.

Middle

Her assertion, "I would while it (her baby) 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", shows us how truly determined to achieve 'the golden round' she is. This would have appalled the audience so much, as here was a woman, discussing murdering her own defenceless baby. She describes it vividly and with great conviction. It also horrifies Macbeth but has the desired affect on him as he goes on to murder Duncan. As she waits for her husband to return, we see that in many ways Lady Macbeth has not the 'direst cruelty' that is so sorely required from the evil spirits and that she is not totally 'unsexed'. Firstly, she reveals how she needs alcohol to stop her fears. Then she tells us that she would have murdered Duncan "had he not resembled my father as he slept". This reveals that Lady Macbeth still has feminine traits and is quite delicate. She reverts to her usual assertive self when an anxious Macbeth returns. She insults him and accuses him of being a coward for not being able to go and smear blood over the servants to frame them for murder. Macbeth regrets the murder, and claims that he heard a voice telling him that he will never sleep again. A comforting Lady Macbeth reassures him that "a little water clears us of this deed". This quote is important as it comes back to haunt Lady Macbeth towards the end of the play, when we see her brought low by guilt, repeatedly washing 'blood' from her hands. This scene is also important, as it is here that we see the Macbeths together for the last time before Macbeth is King. Their relationship now starts to weaken when Macbeth gets the 'golden round' and they aren't the loving couple that we saw at the start. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lady Macbeth kills herself for two reasons: she feels she has been neglected by her once adoring husband and thus has nothing else to live for. She also feels guilty for the murderers that she was involved in. She is plagued by Duncan's blood and she is isolated in her ordeal. Her death comes as a welcome escape for her as she cannot deal with her conscience or the responsibility of what she has done. She can't live with her 'disease'. In my opinion, Lady Macbeth is not a 'fiend- like queen'. I think that the things that she did such as demanding evil in her life and persuading her husband to kill Duncan in the early part of the play were definitely horrific, but not worthy of the description 'fiend- like'. Everything she did was for Macbeth. It was he who informed her that he wanted to be king and she saw his potential and ambition and encouraged him in his ambition. She did everything for him because she loved him, but once he realised that he did not need her encouragement to kill anymore, he just discarded her. Initially, Lady Macbeth is definitely the stronger one in the marriage and after Duncan's murder she tends to his needs instead of dealing with her own guilt. Her problems escalate in to a mental problem and, finally her death. She regrets and feels guilty over the things she has done and if she was 'fiend- like', I do not believe that she would feel remorse for the crimes she had committed. I think that some of the things that Macbeth did were 'fiend-like', particularly organising the murders of his friend Banquo and Macduff's wife and children, but I believe that the only true fiends in the play are the witches, for it is they who brought so much misery to the characters' lives, who drove Lady Macbeth to plot murder in the hope that it would make her and Macbeth's relationship even stronger. Lady Macbeth dies alone and desperate, a remorseful woman, certainly too frail and sorry to be a 'fiend'. ...read more.

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