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What are our first impressions of Lady Macbeth and how does Shakespeare create them in the audiences mind in Act 1?

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Introduction

What are our first impressions of Lady Macbeth and how does Shakespeare create them in the audience's mind in Act 1? Lady Macbeth plays a considerable part in Shakespeare's story of Macbeth. We start off the scene with the lady herself reading a letter from her beloved husband; this piece of paper announces Macbeth's promotion to be Thane of Cawdor, and also describing his encounter with the three witches. We can tell by the reaction of this letter from Lady Macbeth that she loves him a lot but also has her reservations about the new Thane. She knows that her husband is very ambitious, but also thinks that he isn't brave enough to do what is necessary (although he is brave enough to be a bold, fighting soldier), we can tell this from the quote '"th' milk of human kindness". Lady Macbeth, after this letter is determined to get her man the crown, which also shows the ambitiousness that they share together; of which she wants to do anything to get it. ...read more.

Middle

Shakespeare shows the audience that Lady Macbeth does not have the moral standards of most people. Very briefly in scene 6, we see her basically lie to Duncan saying that it is her duty to be hospitable since she and her husband owe so much to their king. Straight away it is obvious that she doesn't mind lying to someone important to deceive them and make them feel welcomed when really, his murderers lie in wait. Later on, in scene 7, Macbeth is by himself considering his choice to kill the king and whether or not to actually do it or not. He fears that his actions will "return to plague th' inventor'; he has no other reason to kill Duncan than his, or his wife's own ambition. This short piece of writing tells us that when on his own, Macbeth's thoughts are actually morally right and he does have some sanity. This is when Lady Macbeth enters the scene only to find out her husband has had second thoughts about the murder; of which her reaction is pure anger. ...read more.

Conclusion

From here, Macbeth proceeds to commit the vicious murder. Throughout the play, whenever Macbeth shows signs of faltering, Lady Macbeth implies that he is less than a man, intimidating him and bullying him into decisions. He sees the Lady's masculinity as heroic (this is why he seems to rather do everything she tells him to), whilst she sees this masculinity for dark and cruel ways which for some reason he cannot see. Even though when Duncan is dead Macbeth will be the Thane, Lady Macbeth seems more concerned about power. Morality is shown a lot in these few scenes; although Macbeth knows he is doing the wrong thing in killing Duncan, he still does it even though he will probably reap the consequences. It is Lady Macbeth that controls the second half of this act however, and ends up bullying Macbeth into making his decision based on her own selfish ambition. He can not seem to stand up for himself, through all the manipulative speech she uses, and this is what eventually contributes to Macbeth's downfall. ...read more.

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Response to the question

The candidate has addressed the question directly, and does his/her analysis by going through the first act chronologically. This is an effective method for approaching a question such as this and gives the essay a clear structure, although at times ...

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Response to the question

The candidate has addressed the question directly, and does his/her analysis by going through the first act chronologically. This is an effective method for approaching a question such as this and gives the essay a clear structure, although at times the analysis is not as in depth as would be appropriate for a high mark, and the essay is quite short.

Level of analysis

The candidate has quoted directly from the play, and commented on the quotations and thereby shown what impression they give of Lady Macbeth, and has also discussed her impact on Macbeth himself and the impression she creates on him. Where this is done it is done well, although the essay would benefit from more extensive quotation and reference to the text. The candidate has also not really discussed the literary devices used by Shakespeare and how these contribute to Lady Macbeth’s characterisation, although s/he has explained metaphors such as “th’ milk of human kindness”. Simply writing more and with great reference to the text would improve this essay greatly.

Quality of writing

The essay is well written, with a high standard of grammar, spelling and punctuation. Occasionally the language used is a bit too conversational, and therefore slightly inappropriate for a school essay, for example, “we see her basically lie to Duncan”. Aside from this, the candidate has shown a flowing style and the command of a large vocabulary.


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Reviewed by medbh4805 19/02/2012

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