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The Innocent Flower And The Serpent Under It: The Shifting Psyches Of Macbeth And Lady Macbeth

1280 words - 5 pages

In order for a relationship to survive, the two people in the relationship must sustain an equilibrium, but should one person exercise more power over the other, the relationship will fail. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s marriage suffers immensely when Lady Macbeth tilts the equilibrium by manipulating her husband into killing the king of Scotland. “Macbeth, usually dated 1606, is the story of a Scotch nobleman, related to King Duncan of Scotland, tempted into murdering the king to gain the crown for himself” (Gerwirtz 10). While Lady Macbeth’s initial stronger influence urges Macbeth to usurp the throne through regicide, the unconscious personality reversal prevents new king and queen from enjoying their ill-gotten positions. Lady Macbeth’s instinctive desires, or her id (in Freudian terms), constantly battles with Macbeth’s conscience, or superego, but once Lady Macbeth’s superego dominates her mind and Macbeth’s id drives him to madness, the couple instigates their own tragic downfall.
According to Freud, every human’s basic needs and initial wants originate in the id (“Freud’s Concepts”). The id does not recognize right from wrong; it supplies “all of our aggressions and desires.” Also known as the “pleasure principle,” the id, if not contained, could lead to the destruction of others and possibly the destruction of oneself. Because of these destructive tendencies, theologians believe the Devil possesses any person with an overpowering id (Guerin et. al. 157).
In the first half of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth represents a preeminent id. Even though her conscience grows in strength throughout the play, a crucial difference between Lady Macbeth and her husband lies with her ability to stifle her conscience in the first act (Gerwirtz 111). Lady Macbeth’s id triggers her worst character flaws, greed and deceit (Hazlitt 146-59). Through her antagonizing words and her greed for power, she influences her husband to commit regicide (Boyce 355). The notion of killing anyone is an abhorring thought, but should instant gratification result from the murder, her id would seize control. Understanding that the king’s death would grant Lady Macbeth more power, her id views regicide as the only option. She believes that her manipulation of her husband will lead him to happiness he does not comprehend yet, and by coaxing Macbeth to kill the king for power and gratification, the “id” of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, reigns dominant in act one (Gerwirtz 111). As she plans the murder, Lady Macbeth prays: “[...] [F]ill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. / Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse, / That no compunctious visiting of nature / Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between / Th’ effect and it” (Macbeth 1. 5. 49-54) She claims that she does not want to feel regret, and she wants her conscience silenced.
Juxtaposed against Lady Macbeth's overpowering id, Macbeth's...

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