Lady Macbeth’s atypical and complex character directly challenged the archetypal principles and beliefs of the Jacobean era which as a result, drew major fascination through the ages. Lady Macbeth was Shakespeare’s device to not only stimulate audience’s emotions, but to also provide historical context and elicit dominant themes which reflected Jacobean society. Her ambiguous character and remarkable influences in the play raised a lot of controversy and fascination amongst both modern and Jacobean audiences. She can either be seen as linked to the witches in a feminist bid to overthrow the balance of power, or as a representation of the evil side of Macbeth. Nevertheless, it was her distinct characteristics and actions which ultimately catalysed the chain of conflicts of the play. Again, this reinforces her important role in the play.
Lady Macbeth was “choked with ambition”. Her infatuation to be queen is the single feature that Shakespeare developed far beyond that of her counterpart in the historical story he used as his source. Lady Macbeth persistently taunts her husband for his lack of courage, even though we know of his bloody deeds on the battlefield. At this point in time, with all her will converging towards seizing the throne, she has shown no signs of remorse or hesitance in her actions and hence preventing the events in the narrative from digressing away from imperative themes and climaxes of the play.
While she elicits her evil character in the mere shadows of the play, in public, she is able to act as Duncan “honoured hostess”, enticing her victim, into her castle. When she faints immediately after the murder of Duncan, the audience is left wondering whether this, too, is part of her act. This controversy could in fact, be an indirect interpretation of Lady Macbeth’s true character.
Chain Of Beings
Perhaps the most morally affecting scene in the whole play is where Macbeth, while still innocent and not ungrateful to King Duncan, almost begs his wife to let him abandon the assassination scheme. This scene was ultimately a mere paradox against the gender assumptions of the Jacobean era. This whole idea of female dominance directly challenges the Chain of Beings and as a result, exemplified Lady Macbeth’s importance as Shakespeare’s device to cause fascination amongst audiences. It also shows explicitly her influence on the main character Macbeth and hence the state of the entire play.
“What beast was't, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both:
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now”
Here she twists his words and takes the literal definition of 'man', reversing it. She aligns masculinity with...