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One of Shakespeare's most famous and popular plays was Macbeth and when he wrote it in 1603-1607, the story was a famous regicide and Shakespeare showed the consequences it faced. At this time the first to have seen this play were the Jacobean era, and with the people in this time would have been scared and frightened with the word supernatural, and Shakespeare includes very paranormal scenes through out. This was one of Shakespeare's best plays and the audience would have been very frightened with the scenes with the witches and Lady Macbeth. When Macbeth was first performed King James was the king, and he would have liked and enjoyed Macbeth as he was misogynist and he hated women and thought they were not to be spoken off or even heard from. In Macbeth I feel Shakespeare has purposely created each character to either be liked or disliked. For example, the female characters, Lady Macbeth and the witches. They are portrayed so negatively especially Lady Macbeth who was unfeeling and cold-hearted.
I believe that Shakespeare created Lady Macbeths to be disliked and quite desperate, as she persuades Macbeth, her husband a great noble warrior to commit a crime that was unforgivable and something he would never have thought of and this was killing King Duncan who thought proudly of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth Is referred to as a “fiend like queen” by Malcolm and I feel this is very true about her because through-out the play she schemes up the plan to kill King Duncan and makes sure she is queen, and this means eliminating anyone who is in the way like King Duncan and Banquo.
When we first meet Lady Macbeth in Act 1 scene 5, she is reading a letter that Macbeth has sent her, and he tells her of the witches. Lady Macbeth then becomes entranced and enraptured by the way he talks about the witches, “Thane of Cawdor, by which title, before these weird sisters saluted me and referred me to the coming on of time with `Hail King that shalt be”. This line that Shakespeare has used here states that Macbeth is going to be the next King. As she reads on Macbeth then says, “Yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o'th'milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way”. This means Macbeth will let chance and fate have its own way and he shall not speed the process up. But Lady Macbeth does not see this way as she sees an opportunity to take the crown and believes that Macbeth will do this for her. Shakespeare also shows through out the play that when Lady Macbeth is foul, Macbeth is fair, and when Macbeth is foul, Lady Macbeth is fair. Here we see that Lady Macbeth is foul as she is so desperate to have power.
As we read on we see the side of Lady Macbeth that would have terrified the Jacobean audiences, this is when Lady Macbeth speaks to the spirits and we see a evil presence here, “come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty, make my blood thick”, this means she wants to feel so remorse or humanity and she wants nothing to stop her from committing the crime. Shakespeare's stage directions here are brilliant as Lady Macbeth soliloquy shows her greatness and how nothing will stop her. Shakespeare includes juxtaposed images to create visual imagery of Lady Macbeth standing on her own on stage speaking to the spirits. This kind of reaction for the Jacobean audiences would be been people screaming and really getting scared and compared to the modern age we are used to supernatural stories and any type of horror, because we have been introduced to it. This is where we see Lady Macbeth as a fiend like queen, as she shows she wants power and opposition. When Macbeth arrives back to the castle Lady Macbeth begins her plan to make sure that when Duncan arrives to their castle he shall not leave again, “O never, shall sun that morrow see”. This is foreboding language that Shakespeare uses here to portray that something bad and dark is going to happen. Next Shakespeare uses a metaphor that is a very famous line that Lady Macbeth uses, “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it”, this means on the outside be nice but on the inside be cruel. Although Macbeth is not convinced, “We will speak further”, this shows his loyalty for King Duncan, but Lady Macbeth has no fear about this and she wants to kill.
The next scene that Lady Macbeth shows her significant evil being is Act 1 Scene 7. Here she is in an anger mood with Macbeth as he has left the dinning room to gather his thoughts, “How now? What news? He has almost supped. Why have you left the chamber?” She is in an aggravated mood with him and Shakespeare's use of monosyllabic words to show her anger. In this scene Lady Macbeth insults Macbeth's masculinity and tells him how he needs to be more like her, “Was the hope drunk, wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?” She shows a lot of fury and wickedness here. She also is duteousness and persuading him to kill King Duncan to show her how much he loves her, Shakespeare's deliberate choice of words here is fantastic. Lady Macbeth also calls Macbeth a coward making out he has fear and he is not a man, “then you were a man, and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man”. Next Shakespeare uses visual imagery here and juxtaposed images and this shows the shocking truth of Lady Macbeth's character, “to love the babe that milks me, I would while it was smiling in my face have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn you as have done this”, here she Is emotionally blackmailing him and this shows how sneaky and manipulative she is. When Macbeth questions her, Shakespeare portrays how aggravated and irritated she gets, “We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking place, and we'll not fail”, this line is a sexual line and Shakespeare shows the impact of her anger towards her husband.
The next scene where Lady Macbeth shows her bold attitude is the scene where Duncan is killed. Lady Macbeth was going to kill Duncan but her attempt was failed when she decided that he looked too much like her father so she could not kill him, at this time it shows she has some humanity in her but she had got Macbeth do kill him instead. Once again Lady Macbeth becomes aggravated when she finds that Macbeth has not fulfilled the entire task. “Why did you bring the daggers from the place? They must lie there. Go carry them, and smear the sleepy grooms with blood”. Her character is controlling and she has a lot of fury with Macbeth and this soon makes their relationship fall apart. Shakespeare uses these quotations to portray each personality of each character and his stage directions are used to show how alone they are, as Lady Macbeth has a number of soliloquy's in this play. Lady Macbeth's most famous quote was, “A little water clears us of this deed”, this means once they wash their hands the guilt will be over and it was so easy.
The next day when everyone finds out that Duncan is dead Macbeth has to convince everybody that he did not kill the king and he thought by trying to achieve this was to use a hyperbolic speech and they way he was over reacting made everyone seem suspicious of him. When Lady Macbeth sees him doing this she tries her best to take the attention of Macbeth by fainting and this was a very important stage direction for Shakespeare to use, “Help me hence ho!” The men soon forget Macbeth's outrage and seek help to Lady Macbeth as she was taking the attention away from him.
There are many scenes where we see Lady Macbeth as a “fiend like queen” and there are some where some may seek pity for her and some may think it is what she deserves. The sleep walking scene is an example because she finally feels the guilt and remorse of what she has done. In this scene her gentlewoman calls a doctor to come and check on her as she is getting more and more disturbed, “Lo you here she comes. This is her very guise, and upon my life, fast asleep. Observe her, stand close”. Here Shakespeare shows how vulnerable Lady Macbeth is and how clearly she misses Macbeth ever since he has went off into battle. There is so much irony in this play which Shakespeare has made it so brilliant. The fact that she wanted Macbeth to commit the murder, but as the play progresses they switch which means she is fair and he is foul and he becomes the tyrant while she is reluctant, unsure and guilty of these crimes. In the sleep walking scene she keeps referring to the death of King Duncan, “Yet here's a spot”. This means she still thinks that there is blood on her hands and she cannot get it off. This relates back to the scene where Duncan was killed, “A little water clears us of this deed”. This is where it is ironic. While in the sleepwalking scene she shows how in the long run of things, the murders she helped commit shows how disturbed she was. “Out damned spot, out I say, hell is murky” She is desperate to get rid of the blood she becomes so emotional and weepy she even has something like a nursery rhyme that calms her and I think Shakespeare has included this to show that yet even though she was evil and powerful, she is restless and devastated. “The Thane of Fife has a wife; where is she now? What will these hands never be clean”. This shows that her sins have driven her mad and she needs help. She finally feels the regret and remorse of making Macbeth they man he has become. As the gentlewoman and the doctor see what has happened to her they are afraid to speak of why this has happened her. Shakespeare's deliberate choice of words was well used here. “Wash your hands, put on your nightgown, look not so pale. I tell you yet again Banquo's buried; he cannot come out on' grave”. Here she thinks she is speaking with Macbeth on the night of Duncan's murder, but this scene also shows she is lonely and she misses her husband as their love has dismayed and it is gone, unlike the love we seen at the start of the play.
In the next Macbeth has learned that his wife has died he shows no sadness or pain. This shows how the love left their hearts. “The Queen my lord is dead”. We believe she committed suicide to give her peace. She shows a certain kind of repentance, and that the guilt and pressure has overcame her in the end and they isolation she had.
In our school we have seen a production by a group of adults who performed scenes from Macbeth. This is an interesting session as it helped me understand the storyline more as Shakespeare's version was wrote to be performed but it is seen differently from reading. Shakespeare's presentation of Lady Macbeth was brilliant as he shows two sides to her and one side is when she is referred to as a “fiend like queen” and the other was a sympathy side. I would agree that she was a “fiend like queen” as she drove herself mad and also Macbeth. If she hadn't have persuaded Macbeth to kill King Duncan, either of them would be like this.