• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To What Extent is Lady Macbeth Responsible for the Downfall of Macbeth?

Extracts from this document...


To What Extent was Lady Macbeth Responsible for the Downfall of Macbeth? In Macbeth, Shakespeare explores diverse levels of humanity. The play begins on a supernatural plane with the witches' prophecy. We are then introduced to the noblemen Macbeth and Banquo, and to a world of royalty and politics. Finally we meet Lady Macbeth, the loyal wife in waiting at home. Shakespeare brings the play down from a supernatural and spiritual level, to the normal and simple way of family life and most importantly, the interactions between a man and his wife. The witches' prophecy that Macbeth will one day be King certainly ignites the plot, but it is his marital relationship that drives the play forward and leads to his ultimate demise. To what extent then, is Lady Macbeth responsible for the downfall of Macbeth? In answering this question we must consider various elements of the play and different attributes of the characters. What type of woman is Lady Macbeth? How much power does she command over her husband? What kind of a man is he, Macbeth, to allow his wife to dictate to him his actions? Is it really the case that she does have complete reign over the household, or are we treating Lady Macbeth unfairly by labelling her the villain of the play? ...read more.


Her demonic strength overcomes Macbeth's own, when he is unable to return the daggers she scorns "tis the eye of childhood/ that fears a painted devil" (II.ii.57). She finishes the job herself, "My hands are of your colour" (II.ii.67), and reassures her husband "A little water clears us of this deed" (II.ii.70). However, unbeknownst to both man and wife, these words will return to haunt her. Despite these bold actions, after the reality of the gruesome deeds sinks in we begin to witness a very different Lady Macbeth. From Act V onwards we witness how Lady Macbeth has begun to recoil from her once cold and emotionless capacity for cruelty. In spite of having claimed to shame "to wear a heart so white" (II.ii.68), after the literal blood staining of her hands she becomes obsessed with cleanliness, she is always washing her hands exclaiming, "yet here's a spot" (V.i.28) what will these hands ne'er be clean?" (V.i.38). Her failure to escape the smell of blood is a direct sign of her guilt. She is finally revealing and admitting that she committed a terrible act, whereas previously she was convinced by such evil that she lacked even an inking of a conscience. ...read more.


The question is, if Macbeth had never received the Witches prophecy would all this have still happened or would he have lived a happy life with Lady Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor? "If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me/ Without my stir"(I.iii.143) The witches plant the seed of ambition in a man already capable of murder, whose "brandished steel, / which smok'd with bloody execution! (I.ii.17) well before he learnt of his prophecy. Lady Macbeth does urge and encourage Macbeth to take action but the real catalyst of the play is the prophecy, it may be argued Lady Macbeth speeds matters up. It is Macbeth who takes his destiny into his own hand and ignores chance and fortune, so whilst Lady Macbeth is to blame to an extent, Macbeth seals his own fate. Masculinity is equated with the rational and the logical, where as femininity is often connected with over developed emotions and irrationality. Lady Macbeth's resulting insanity due to the guilt of having blood on her hands is an ironic twist; the "unsexed" villain is reduced to a manic wreck and thus embodies the stereotypical derogatory opinions of what it is to be a woman. Macbeth is a tragedy of blind love and ambition. In the end the joint guilt of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth ultimately separates them, and they perish as individuals, each alone. Jeffrey Nelson 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Macbeth section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Macbeth essays

  1. A classical tragedy tells the story of the downfall of a great man.

    Macbeth knows there will be consequences to his actions, "plagues the inventor". He also knows he might fail. Macbeth thinks Duncan is a good King and Duncan has just rewarded his faithful subject, Macbeth, with the title: Thane of Cawdor.

  2. Who was responsible for the downfall of Scotland?

    The scene in which Duncan arrives at Macbeth's castle is rich with irony. Duncan na�vely forgets how he has just been betrayed by appearance and reality and whilst discussing with Banquo they say that the air 'recommends itself' and 'is delicate'.

  1. To what extent was Lady Macbeth responsible for Macbeths downfall?

    Act 1 Scene 5 The fact that Macbeth sent a letter to his wife about the recent event that took place shows they had a very intimate relationship. In the letter Macbeth wrote to his wife, he wrote, 'My dearest partner in greatness.'

  2. To what extent is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall?

    Before the witches tell Macbeth the future, there is a dramatic irony in the play, because the audience already know that King Duncan made Macbeth 'Thane of Cawdor'. At this point, the audience know far more than the characters do.

  1. To what extent is Macbeth wholly responsible for his ruin, which destroys not only ...

    has committed his first murder, one cannot possibly imagine the monster that he later turns into. He expresses his angst to Lady Macbeth about the voices he claims to have heard. Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth of the voice he heard 'Sleep no more!

  2. What part does Lady Macbeth play in Macbeth's downfall?

    As my view of her is that she is just a very loving and supportive wife. I think that her love for her husband is so strong that she is prepared to do anything to support him in his ambition to become king.

  1. How can blame be apportioned in “Macbeth”?

    From this time onwards we share in the slow decline of a great hero in his own right, until finally we see only the sad and lonely man who anticipates the meaninglessness of his future. Although it is very necessary for Shakespeare to show the heroic Thane in action, it

  2. English Macbeth coursework-Is the supernatural wholly responsible for the tragedy that occurs or is ...

    In an ambitious move the husband and wife plot to kill King Duncan. When Duncan comes to stay at Macbeth's castle, Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to go ahead with the murder and grudgingly he does. Malcolm and Donaldblain, sons of Duncan, escape to England and Macbeth is crowned King.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work