How does Shakespeare present Lady Macbeth as a complex and interesting character?
As a student of literature and drama, I have been fascinated by the way in which the character of Lady Macbeth is one that can be interpreted and performed in many ways due to the complexity of her character. Throughout the play she changes drastically from a power-hungry wife to a lonely and suicidal corpse; which makes her character harder to understand. At the beginning of the play she is presented as a strong and powerful woman in patriarchal society but what’s interesting is that by the end of the play she is broken, scared and vulnerable due to the supernatural content. This play would have raised strong emotions, potentially shocking the audience because Lady Macbeth summons up supernatural powers, especially if the audience was Jacobean because they were a very superstitious society.
It is evident throughout the play that Lady Macbeth does not display the ‘typical’ characteristics of a Jacobean married woman, in more ways than one. This becomes apparent in Act 1 scene 5, where we meet her for the first time. She calls upon evil spirits to “unsex” her. She does this because she wants to be courageous enough to do the deed she needs to do, even by going to the extremes of planning a regicide, to gain power. It’s interesting that within the context of the time, Shakespeare implies she needed to be “unsexed”, stripped of her femininity, to be brave. This shows how a woman has had the stereotype of being inferior to men. Shakespeare often presents Lady Macbeth’s monologues in the semantic field of heaven and hell. For example, later in the scene, she tells Macbeth to be a “serpent”. Shakespeare’s reference to the Old testament here would’ve drawn upon images familiar to his audience, who would likely have been practicing Christians. In encouraging Macbeth to “look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t”, Lady Macbeth’s words make direct reference to the Garden of Eden and the role of the serpent in tempting Eve into sinful behaviours. Shakespeare has indubitably presented a character who is abnormal and power hungry - which adds to her complexity as a character.
A very unusual and interesting aspect of Lady Macbeth's character is that she seems to dominate her husband; which might possibly have shocked a Jacobean audience more than the spirits would have. This can be seen throughout the play but, especially in Act 1, Scene 7. Shakespeare uses shared iambic rhythm which crafts the idea of Lady Macbeth being domineering because she often interrupts Macbeth and tells him what to do- which would not have been what was deemed normal within the context of the time. She also uses many interrogatives in this scene. However, although she is perceived as having an imposing relationship with her husband, Shakespeare still refers to her as being Lady Macbeth and never reveals her name but refers to her as the property of her husband. From this, we can...