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How Shakespeare Portrayed Lady Macbeth Essay

1191 words - 5 pages

From the very beginning, Lady Macbeth is depicted as an ambitious and powerful woman, who is central to the plot of William Shakespeare's Macbeth.

So far, in the play, Lady Macbeth has been shown to be a very powerful and ambitious character. After reading Macbeth's letter, she says, "Thou wouldst be great, / Art not without ambition, but without / The illness that should attend it"(I.v 17-19), here, she is saying that he needs more evil or "illness" in him to become King, and therefore implies that she will "poison" him and give him the illness he needs to increase his ambition. Here she is also undermining her husband's authority (which is very unusual for a woman in the Elizabethan era) by saying he is unable to become a King, and is undermining his masculinity as she is thinking about things that a man would usually take charge of. To try to persuade Macbeth to kill Duncan when the audience first see them meet on stage, she is very bold, "Your hand, you tongue, look like th'innocent flower, / But be the serpent under't" (I.v 65-66), she shows her strong female identity, whose ambitions speak for her obsession with power.

When Macbeth tries to ?back out? of murdering Duncan, Lady Macbeth uses many techniques to persuade him to carry out the deed. Firstly, she repeats the metaphor of clothes he uses, ?Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, / Not cast aside so soon? (I.vii 34-35) but changes the meaning, ?Was the hope drunk / wherein you dressed yourself?? (I.vii 35-36) showing she can be manipulating and that she has a thorough understanding of words, which is unusual for an Elizabethan woman. She also tries to manipulate him by saying, ?From this time / Such I account thy love? (I.vii 38-39) which could be perceived as a threat. Lady Macbeth then attempts to take away his masculinity by going on to say, ?Wouldst thou have that / Which thou esteem?st the ornament of life, / And live a coward in thine own esteem? (I.vii 41-43), here she is subverting what he really is, a hero who has risen in social status. She carries on and says, ?What beast was?t then, / that made you break this enterprise to me??(I.vii 47-48) denying him is humanity even further by calling him a ?beast?, perhaps insinuating that if he carries out the murder, he will become a man. After this, Lady Macbeth says:

I have given suck, and know
How tender ?tis to love the babe that milks me ?
I would while it was smiling in my face
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done this.

As Macbeth does not, or cannot have an heir to the throne, Macbeth talking about this is another way of denying him his masculinity. In the Elizabethan era, childbirth was seen as an honour, so Lady Macbeth could be implying that they are not yet worthy of a son, but might be after he kills Duncan. In addition, this shows the audience her dedication and potential for evil, if she had made a promise to Macbeth that she...

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