It is thought that Macbeth was written in 1605 or 1606 and performed
for King James 1 and his brother-in-law, King Christian of Denmark.
Whether it was actually performed for the king, or was premiered at
The Globe Theatre like most of Shakespeare’s plays, there can be
little doubt that aspects of the play were intended to please James 1,
who was by this time the patron of Shakespeare’s theatre group. For
example, the character of Banquo, the legendary root of the Stuart
family tree, is depicted very favourably, perhaps to please the king.
The play is also quite short, possibly because Shakespeare knew that
James preferred short plays and contains a supernatural element that
James, who himself published a book on witches and how to detect them,
would have appreciated.
It is my opinion that the description of Lady Macbeth as
“the fiend-like queen”
is well justified by her role in the play. She is very ambitious and
ruthless and schemes to kill the present King of Scotland so that her
husband can become the new King. When she hears that the witches had
greeted Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland she
immediately starts scheming to make these predictions come true. She
decides to carry out the outrageous crime of killing the King when he
comes to stay in Macbeth’s castle, thinking to herself,
“the raven himself is hoarse, that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
under my battlements.”
Lady Macbeth exerts a strong influence over her husband and she is
able to manipulate his actions to help carry out her dastardly plan.
She tells him,
“I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from
his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I sworn as you have
done to this ”
She says this in order to make him commit murder (Friedlander). Lady
Macbeth seems very cold hearted and almost inhumane when she suggests
that she would kill her own child breaking a promise to her husband.
It is difficult to know whether Lady Macbeth is just exaggerating or
whether she would be prepared to carry out such an incredible action.
At this part of the play she slyly manipulates Macbeth by calling him
a coward, saying,
“Live like a coward in thine own esteem, letting ‘I dare not’ wait
upon ‘I would’ like the cat I’ the adage?”
She then contrasts this with her own determination to accentuate
Macbeth’s weakness. Macbeth is shamed by her persuasive words and
agrees to take part in her murderous plan.
Deceptiveness is another of Lady Macbeth’s great strengths. She
welcomes Duncan whole- heartedly to the castle telling him
“ all our service, in every point twice done, and then done double,
were poor and single business to contend.”
This quality also proves very useful to Lady Macbeth...