Comparing Lady Macbeth and Curley's Wife

Authors Avatar by gexyszgmailcom (student)

‘Of Mice and Men’, written in 1937 by John Steinbeck, and ‘Macbeth’, written in 1606 by William Shakespeare, both portray women as linked to the downfall of male characters. Both play and novel were set and written at times where women did not have many rights. ‘Macbeth’ was first performed in 1606 which was a patriarchal society and the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ meant that people believed that kings were chosen by God to rule and so killing a king, or regicide, was considered to be the greatest sin that could be committed. I will be looking at Lady Macbeth who has a sinister control over her husband. ‘Of Mice and Men’ was written in the time of the Great Depression; by this point in history, women had started to receive some rights such as voting, but they were the first to lose their jobs when the Depression came and many had to become housewives once again. Curley’s wife represents the frustration of women in this era. This essay will focus on the similarities and differences between the two characters and how they are represented thought structure, language and themes.

The audience first meets Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 5. She is reading a letter from Macbeth explaining the events that just took place with the witches. This is followed by her soliloquy, so we hear her thoughts aloud. This indicates that Lady Macbeth will have power over the events in the play, since she begins plotting the murder of the king; this display of power is rare for a woman in the 17th century, which is further suggested by the fact that she would have been played by a man on a Shakespearean stage.  Lady Macbeth during the play is important, since she is already the wife of a nobleman and later the king. After the reign of Queen Elizabeth, society was anxious about powerful women and would have been very anxious about Lady Macbeth since she begins to plot murder while reading the letter saying: “Yet do I fear thy / nature It is too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way”. “nearest way” is a euphemism for murder. She shows boldness and is critical of her husband.

Lady Macbeth and Curley’s wife both show disdain for their husbands. In Act 2 Scene 2, Lady Macbeth is manipulative towards her husband, as she complains to him for returning the daggers to the scene of the crime, by saying “My hands are of your colour, but I shame / to wear a heart so white”, ‘white’ is related to innocence or without sin. This relates to the context as during the Jacobean men are meant have bloody hearts from all the people they have killed and for a woman to call a man’s heart white, and for her to be shamed by it he must be less manly than her. The relationship between Curley and Curley’s wife is seen without trust throughout the development of the book. Curley’s wife does not wish to be under his masculine control; Curley’s wife says “think I like to stick in that house alla time?” The word ‘stick’ means to stay attached by adhesion, this shows how she is unable to be free or disobey her husbands in any way. It shows that she hates to be by herself, and shows Curley’s possessiveness and jealousy towards the other characters on the ranch about her reduces the things in which she is able to do. In the 1930s woman were often kept at home by their husbands as jobs were becoming more difficult to get and keep, as women just recently received the right to work in more masculine jobs and so this get them the least amount of rights to jobs when jobs became scarce.

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Lady Macbeth emotions and Macbeth physical status are linked throughout the play. In Act 1 we see Macbeth being promoted to thane at the end of his battle, this is the start of his kingdom, fortress and prison. Lady Macbeth on reading the letter sent for Macbeth increases in wickedness and this is the start of her kingdom, fortress and prison but with Lady Macbeth it is to guard or imprison her emotions or guilt. This doesn’t last long for the queen as her guard is down and her emotions escape her during her sleepwalking scene, as she says ...

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