The complexities of Lady Macbeth

“Lady Macbeth’s criminal mind and desire for ruthlessness have led many a critic to define her as evil. Closer examination, however, reveals that she is a multifaceted character.” 

I would agree with this statement. Throughout the early scenes of the play, Shakespeare immediately defines Lady Macbeth as a possessive, dominant character in which took control of and manipulated Macbeth’s actions. To further emphasise this, a comparison can be made to the stereotypical women of Elizabethan England. Whilst these women would often be portrayed as innocent, fragile, and vulnerable, Lady Macbeth’s personality is displayed as quite the contrary. She takes on a very present role throughout the events of Macbeth’s life, and her way of expression of words reveals her stern, cold blooded and ambitious side. For example, in Act 1 scene 5 when Macbeth writes to Lady Macbeth about the witches prophecies, she is immediately eager, and planning on how to kill the king. In line 1:5:1, “They met me in the day of success”, these lines already reveal Lady Macbeth’s ambitious plans, and how she strives to ‘achieve’ the prophecy immediately. Such behaviour would be commonly expected from a man, giving his inceptive to fight and protect, however Shakespeare has chosen to inverse gender roles, which is what further defines Lady Macbeth’s distinct, evil, criminal mind. Furthermore, in line 1:5:31, when she says, “Unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood”, the masculine aspect of lady Macbeth is further revealed. It shows how she is willing for all her feminine traits to be taken away, and her desire to be of superiority. It reveals her dark spirits within her, further embodying her aggression and will to fulfil the witches’ prophecy.

Upon closer examination as we progress throughout the play, an element of character development is seen with Lady Macbeth. After Macbeth has committed the murder to Banquo, Lady Macbeth starts to be sidelined. This could possibly reveal how after having done one deed, Macbeth felt more of a powerful individual, who no longer needed his wife’s assistance or control over him. She is revealed as weak in Act 5 scene 1, when she starts to sleepwalk,  and claims that nothing can wash blood off her hands from the bloody dagger. This reenforces the multi-faced aspect of her. It implies that deep inside her there is still an element of pure evilness, however she is starting to resent guilt regarding what she has done. Rubbing her hands is seen as an action of regret in which she remorsefully tries to reverse her actions, but only to reveal how she is simply thinking in a more uncontrolled, chaotic manner.

Furthermore, she commits suicide which leads us to conclude that if she had sustained her initial personality of ambition and evilness, she would have not chosen to end her life. It shows to prove how Lady Macbeth’s personality varies greatly throughout the play, in consequence to her and her husband’s actions.


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