Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Theory and Practice
Shakespeare's Macbeth has been the subject of scholarly research in terms of ambition, politics, and sexuality. The most predominant analysis is that of the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. This relationship in theory is full of sexual innuendo, maternal power, gender transgression, and violence. In reading multiple essays on the psychological nature of the relationship one question came to mind: to what extent are the characters aware of the psychological effect they have on each other in performance? In contrast to the various essays by literary scholars, Sinead Cusack wrote with Carol Rutter in Shakespeare's Late Tragedies about her process in preparing for the role of Lady Macbeth for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Although her choices are not the only choices that can be made by an actor in that role, her experience contrasted the theoretical models written by so many scholars. Her relationship with Macbeth was real, not a theoretical analysis of the psychological effect the characters have on one another. Through her written process and the analysis of the scholars mentioned above I will outline the dichotomy between theory and performance and the relationship between Macbeth and his Lady.
Lady Macbeth and the Witches
Jane Adelman summarizes the psychoanalytic interpretation of the relationship between Lady Macbeth and the Witches (ibid 140). Lady Macbeth and the Witches signify for Macbeth the role of both temptress and mother, an issue that will be explored more fully below. Adelman claims that the Witches tempt Macbeth on the cosmic plain, whereas Lady Macbeth tempts him on the psychological plain (ibid 139). All of the female figures represent the power of the maternal figure over procreation and her influence over the child-a role to which Lady Macbeth and the Witches all reduce Macbeth (Watson 99). Also, all roles refer to, what I believe, not the masculinity, but defeminizations of the women in order to further extort their power over Macbeth (Adelman 139). However, if the scholarly analysis is correct, that Macbeth is a play representing the male fear of feminine power and chaos (ibid, Watson 99) than the "unsexing" of these characters would destroy the central theme of the play, or at least reduce the danger to masculinity. Although the witches take on an androgynous persona "you should be women/And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/That you are" (1.3.45-47) they are entirely feminine in their ability to tempt Macbeth and to "mother" him by manipulating him. Lady Macbeth tempts him as well "Art thou afeard/To be the same in thine own act and valour,/As thou art in desire?" (1.7.37-39) and also reduces him to the status of an infant by comparing him to her infant in 1.7.54-59 "I have given suck, and know..." (this line will be more fully explored below).
The connection between Lady Macbeth and the Witches is an easy...