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Macbeth Critical Essay

2270 words - 10 pages

Macbeth, a masterpiece of William Shakespeare, depicts the tragedy of the titular hero, Macbeth. The relationship between him and his wife, Lady Macbeth changes drastically throughout the story and while doing this, helps to illuminate the key idea of Macbeth’s rise and fall as a king.

Before the assassination of King Duncan, and before Macbeth’s reign even begins, Shakespeare lies the groundwork of the strong connection between the two lovers. Lady Macbeth enters the play in Act 1, Scene 5, in which she receives a letter, by messenger, sent by Macbeth himself. In this letter, Macbeth describes her as his: “dearest partner of greatness.” (1.5/11). Clearly, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth must have a strong relationship, seeing as the play outright tells the reader, but it’s the smaller details which show how good as a couple they really are.

The letter was Macbeth’s immediate reaction after meeting the witches, excited to tell his wife the great news. He describes it in a way that makes it sound like it is a gift to her. This is further backed up by undertones of ambition coming from Lady Macbeth, suggesting that one of her greatest desires is to become queen. This “gift” shows that Macbeth knows exactly what his wife wants. And it seems that the recognition of wants and needs is mutual in terms of Lady Macbeth. She knows from the letter alone of Macbeth’s ambition to be king. This may suggest that they have discussed this topic previously, which emphasises the trust and respect which they have towards each other, and unusual occurrence for this time period.

“too full o’ milk of the human kindness” (1.5/17). This is how Lady Macbeth describes him, when thinking about why Macbeth won’t make himself king. At first glance, this sounds like a harsh way to talk to your lover, but it is shown throughout the play that bittersweet comments are her form of endearment. Instead, Lady Macbeth is wanting to bring out the potential in his husband, that he has the power to become king, but he just needs a little push. The act of wanting to unleash the hidden potential from each other compliments the strong bond the two have.

Macbeth arrives, in the same scene, in which he is greeted with honour and praise. “Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!” (1.5/54) Lady Macbeth cries, emphasising the respect between the two even further. He proceeds to ask if she knew of Duncan’s arrival, which would seem strange since he sent a messenger ahead of him, if he wasn’t in fact testing to see if Lady Macbeth were on the same page. Of course, being the brilliant couple they are, she grasps the idea immediately and they start plotting. This theme of understanding is very important, as it will be one of the key indicators when the relationship starts to fail.

As they continue to discuss, Macbeth asks Lady Macbeth to perform a simple wish for him. “look like the innocent flower,/But be the serpent under’t.” (1.5/65-66). Here Macbeth is asking her to be quiet and a perfect host for...

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