The Characterisation of Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 5
The Macbeth scenes are generally intended to express tragedy in the
play. Much of the scene in Act 1 Scene 5 is concentrated on Lady
Macbeth, because she has dominance over her husband. The scene
commences with Lady Macbeth in solitary. She had received a letter
from Macbeth that he had been announced Thane of Cawdor after a
victorious battle. Macbeth had also written that the witches predict
he will replace Duncan as King. After reading the letter, Lady Macbeth
had been informed that the King will come and stay at her place. She
immediately draws spirits to elude out her femininity and sympathy.
She later encourages Macbeth of how he should plan his murder of King
In the first scene, Shakespeare had informed the audience of “thunder
and lightning”, this gives a stereotypical view of something evil and
sinister. This fits in with the conventions of tragedy, because we see
that evil has immense power conveyed by the weather. Even more
sinister, appears “three witches” – this is a traditional number of
witches appearing at once as it resembles powerfulness, linking it in
to the supernatural world of sinful spells.
Lady Macbeth seems more committed to the murder of King Duncan than
Macbeth, because she is wholehearted in her actions and Macbeth very
much doubts the murder. He asks “If we should fail”, and she responds
“we fail?”- this is an indication of her devotion to the murder and
attempts to convince Macbeth it is inevitable. These quotes also tell
us that Lady Macbeth has fated Macbeth to become a sinful murderer.
There is other evidence that Lady Macbeth is possessed; in Act 5 Scene
1 there is a scene of her sleepwalking and the words she muttered had
tormented her since the death of Duncan. “Banquo’s buried; he cannot
come out on’s grave.”- an example of murmuring past murders: a
haunting of her history.
Shakespeare had portrayed Lady Macbeth as a stereotypical villain,
because she has the practice of the invocation of spirits to “unsex”
her, as femininity is often judged as a weakness. This collaborates
with witchcraft, although femininity does not mix with the images she
had created when drawing out spirits: “the raven himself is hoarse”
and “take my milk for gall”. She provokes evil to control Macbeth, as
she responds to him after reading his letter: “look like the innocent
flower, But be the serpent under’t” – a malicious plan from her that
degrades Macbeth’s masculinity as he follows her commands. This
reaction gains confidence and power for Lady Macbeth, as she
recognises Macbeth’s weakness.
The use of Lady Macbeth’s drawing of spirits manifests her being
There is other evidence of Lady Macbeth’s intelligence and power; in
Act 3 Scene 4, she carries out excuses Macbeth’s...