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Compare and Contrast Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Essay

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Macbeth is one of Shakespeares darkest and most tragic works. Known as one his last four great tragedies, this play has been read and performed throughout the English-speaking world. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, although their characters may seem similar, they are in fact different in many aspects. The once noble Macbeth, as he was known before he walked down the dark path, was in the end a cold, heartless murderer who neither deserved nor desired life. Lady Macbeth did influence her husband, though her evil persona was greater even than Macbeth, near her end she did show some redeeming traits. Through ambition, action and subsequent destruction, this essay will prove their difference.

Both Macbeths and Lady Macbeths ambitions were great. However each had their own limits and beginnings. Macbeths ambition, while one of his fatal flaws as a tragic character, did receive a slow start. During the first couple acts his dependence on Lady Macbeth and her ability to motivate him was great. The lady comments here that her husband is too weak to strive for the crown.

yet do I fear thy nature

It is too full o the milk of human kindness

To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,

Art not with ambition(Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 16-19)

Nevertheless, after becoming king, his ambition takes on a life of its own as he struggles to keep his power. Once this point had been reached, everything he sees as a threat, he removes. Lady Macbeth on the other hand had an iron will and a steadfast drive to begin with. She was the dominant one within the couple for much of the beginning. Once again however, with the attainment of the crown there is a change; her ambition for more slowly dies as she is satisfied with her accomplishments. But she suspects and believes that Macbeth maybe doing more than is necessary to keep the crown.

MacbethAnd make our faces Vizards to our hearts,

Disguising what they are.

Lady MacbethYou must leave this(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 33-35)

She is attempting to deter him from committing anymore unnecessary evils. Her ambition for more is now gone and in its place seems to be a desire for peace.

Their actions also contribute much to the definition of their character, as do their thoughts. Macbeth had a huge hand to play in all three of the great crimes in the play. The first, being the murder of Duncan, was committed with the poisonous influence of his lady. Macbeths guilt and regret is evident after the killing.

To know my deed, twere best not know myself.

Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!

(Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 73-74)

Even so, his conscience does not stand in the way of the last two crimes, the killing of Banquo and the slaughter at Macduffs castle. The murders are ordered with a cold heart; his ruthlessness is now clear and so are his enemies. Lady Macbeth was the leading player during Duncans murder. Her staunchness to the dreadful deed was overwhelming. She accused Macbeth of cowardice and faithlessness when he doubted their success.

Art thou afeard

To be the same in thine own act and valour

As thou in desire Wouldst thou have that

Which thou esteemst the ornament of life,

And live a coward in thine own esteem(Act 1, Scene 7, Lines 39-43)

Yet Lady Macbeth seems to have a change in character as the play progresses. Her once evil thoughts are replaced by thoughts of entertaining her guests at the banquet. She has no part in Banquo or Lady Macduffs assassinations. During her last scene while in her sleep walk she says, no more o that, my lord, no more o that. (V. i. 43-45)

Both Macbeth and his lady faced the same fate of death, but how it came and how it was administered are different. In the final scene we see Macbeth as what can be described as a man fighting out of desperation. Nonetheless, there is no doubt the courage he demonstrates is as real as his expected death. He has relinquished his trust in the witches and now he fights against his destiny.

Though his ruthlessness, brutality and cold heartedness was evident almost straight to the end, one cannot but admire his stubborn spirit during the last scene. For a man who desires death and the peace that comes with it, his unspoken final wish still is to die as a warrior in battle. Lady Macbeth died a different death. Her last scene in the play displays a shadow of the woman she once was. Constantly fighting her own demons, she has become weak and vulnerable. Her guilt and overwhelming regret for what she has done and what her husband has become is now her bane.

Out damned spot! Out I say! One: two:

Why then tis time to dot: hell is murky. Fie my lord,

Fie, a soldier, and afeard What need we fear who

Knows it, when none can call our power to account

(Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 35-39)

She has soiled herself in blood and not even all the perfumes of Arabia will sweeten this little hand. (V. i. 51) She is in a pitiful state and even though one knows the evils she has committed, one will still feel sorry for her. One can only hope that her self-inflicted death will free her of the nightmares that replay continuously in her sleep.

Here one clearly sees the differences in character that are exhibited. The essay plainly illustrates the different states they were in before death, during the crimes and the reasoning behind their ambitions. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth may seem similar but what is presented here clearly sets the differences they exhibit through ambition, action and subsequent destruction.

However one thing in common they do share is a premature death, though it was not wholly unexpected. Macbeths silent wish of a tragic death of a warrior bathed in his own blood gives Macbeth some credibility that he was once a noble thane. And Lady Macbeth, the iron lady in the opening act who receded into a shattered and pitiful shadow of her former self invokes much emotion; her suicide is a final message that none should endure such suffering however evil.

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