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With Particular reference to Act 1 and Act 2, explain why Lady Macbeth would have been such a horrific character for Shakespeare’s audience.

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Introduction

Rishi Saran With Particular reference to Act 1 and Act 2, explain why Lady Macbeth would have been such a horrific character for Shakespeare's audience. To be able to answer this question it is important to understand what Shakespeare's audience would have expected of an Elizabethan woman. They would have expected Shakespeare to portray a female character in a stereotypical way. In the Elizabethan period, women were not even allowed to act on the stage, and young boys, whose voices hadn't yet, broken would have played the female parts. The character 'Hero' in 'Much ado about nothing was typical of the Elizabethan female who was expected to be a dutiful wife and daughter with no visible independence. An Elizabethan woman had no rights in making her own decisions within her society and did as her father or husband wished. She was seen to be powerless and whilst she might have discussed romantic issues, her father would have most certainly chosen her husband. The most attractive women would have been those who were mild and meek and displayed an air of innocence and purity. Despite this lack of power, it was the woman who ran the household and looked after the children. ...read more.

Middle

She calls upon the help of the witches. "Come you spirits...of direst cruelty." She is asking the witches to stop her having female feelings and to make her cruel enough to do what she has to do. She continues by asking the witches to remove all female feelings and weakness from her body, thus making her as strong as a man. As we have already established above, an Elizabethan woman was nothing like a man, was not expected to be like a man and was frowned upon should she act like a man. To an Elizabethan therefore, this would have turned Lady Macbeth into a horrific character. Shakespeare may have done this for the same reason as the makers of today's horror films, showing us children who have been overtaken by the devil as in the Exorcist. It is a form of sensationalism which attracts audiences and which after all, is what the playwright would have been concerned with. Lady Macbeth concludes this speech by asking that darkness hides her when she uses the knife to kill the King. She also asks that she be given the strength to do the deed. "Nor heaven peek through the blanket of the dark to cry. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lady MacDuff almost seems the perfect contrast to Lady Macbeth as she is shown as the typical Elizabethan Woman. While Lady Macbeth would have been a horrific character for a Shakespearean audience, it cannot be forgotten that she cannot be faulted as a wife. In the scene where Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost, she covers for him, comforts him and tries to make him see sense. (3.4.60) " This is the very painting of your fear..." (3.4.66) " Why do you make such faces when all's done you look on but a stool." She obviously gave him the courage to carry out the first murder and at the beginning of the play is the epitome of evil but as soon as Macbeth becomes King her role changes and she goes on, to go mad and finally commits suicide. Horrific as she is, she seems to suffer more than her husband does and one of her last speeches shows just how much she must have suffered. (5.1.48) " Here's the smell of blood still all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh!" As often happens with Shakespeare's most horrific and disliked characters, when they are beaten and become pathetic or sad the playwrite allows them to disappear with dignity. Thus we are lead to assume Lady Macbeth has committed suicide. ...read more.

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