James Robertson 10S
Comparing act 1 scene 5 with act 5 scene 1 of Macbeth
There are many similarities and differences between the two scenes of Macbeth. One of the main differences is the ambition of the two main characters. As soon as Lady Macbeth reads the letter, in act 1 scene 5, her ambition shows, “thus thou must do if thou have it”. Her ambition grows stronger when she finds out that king Duncan is coming to stay overnight, she prepares herself for evil with the “unsex me” speech, this shows that she is willing remove her weakness of being a woman for, “direst cruelty”. This dramatic speech (which is quite early on in the play) gets the audience interested in the play, the speech is made dramatic by Shakespeare’s use of vile language, “make thick my blood”. In this scene macbeth is not as ambitious as his wife and does not get much chance to speak because Lady Macbeth is dominating and is in control of the relationship.
In act 5 scene 1 there are many changes. Lady Macbeth who was so powerful and ambitious is now neither of these but a guilty woman in the middle of a mental breakdown, “will these hands ne’er be clean?”. This surprises the audience that she could change so much which also interests the audience. This scene does not have to be as dramatic as act 1 scene 5 because Shakespeare already has the audience’s attention. By this scene Macbeth’s ambitions have grown a lot but Lady Macbeth no longer has any ambition, and Macbeth is the dominating character of the relationship unlike in act 1 scene 5, it is as if the two characters have reversed roles. In act 1 scene 5 Lady Macbeth and Macbeth were very trusting and loving of each other, “my dearest partner of greatness” but now their relationship has nearly fallen to pieces.
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Ambition is the fundamental theme of the play because it is the driving force of Macbeth’s life. In act 1 scene 5 there was also themes of loyalty and treachery because they are plotting to murder the king which also involves the theme of life and death. Lady Macbeth’s “unsex me” speech was clearly a theme of evil and the supernatural.
In act 5 scene 1 the main theme is the guilt that lady Macbeth feels. The ambition from act 1 scene 5 led to evil to treason to death and now to guilt. The fact that Lady Macbeth is feeling guilty shows that she is no longer evil because if she were still evil she would feel no guilt. She is wishing that she had not done the deed, which means that she is now good instead of evil.
Act 1 scene 5 is the first time that we see Lady Macbeth she makes a shocking appearance. She is dominant, powerful, and perhaps frightening in the intensity of her desire for her husband to become king. Macbeth has, “deep desires” but this is nothing compared to Lady Macbeth’s ambitions. Within forty lines of seeing her she is summoning the supernatural into her body ad soul. There is a strange overbearing quality in her character; she is willing to do anything. Lady Macbeth immediately understands her husband’s letter, which shows their similarities, she gives a direct response and does not appear to have a conscience. The point that she wants to be unsexed is similar to the witch’s ambiguous gender.
In act 5 scene 1 Lady Macbeth has let her guilt overcome her, this shocks the audience because, before, she was always in control and did not appear to have a conscience at all. She now has an obsession with the past which is quite ironic because, before, she said, “what’s done is done” which was positive thinking, now, she says, “what’s done cannot be undone” which implies that she wishes she didn’t do the deed.
Act 1 scene 5 is a contrast from the previous scenes because it is inside Macbeth’s castle instead of being out in the open. This means that Lady Macbeth can be introduced in a very dramatic way: she can be compared to the witches. It also introduces love and affection into the play, which has not been seen before now. This scene makes Macbeth decide to murder King Duncan, which makes it more exciting for the following scene when Duncan arrives because we know he is about to be murdered.
Act 5 scene 1 is a good and appropriate scene to open the act because it is calm although still interesting. It follows on well from the previous scene where individuals were suspecting Macbeth, now the public have proof that the Macbeth’s are guilty. It is relevant to the following scenes when people attack because everybody knows who killed Duncan.
In act 1 scene 5 lady Macbeth's speech was well written and snappy, reflecting her strength, dominance and determination. In act 5 scene 1 she speaks rather sloppily, say one sentence about something then saying very different in the next sentence. She uses obvious rhyme, “the thane of fife had a wife” which is also sloppy. Her language is ill constructed, rough and clumsy. It is breaking down under the stress she has; she can not hold it together anymore. On death, a person’s language collapses completely, it is no surprise that she later commits suicide.
The things that differ the most between the two scenes are the two Macbeth characters; Lady Macbeth was ambitious, powerful and dominating, now she is not ambitious but weak and guilty which is the opposite of before. It is Macbeth that is now the dominant and more ambitious.