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    The Power of Lady Macbeth

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    From the very beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is viewed as very controlling, strong, and certain; saying that Macbeth “Shalt be what thou art promised”. This shows Lady Macbeth’s command, she is ordering Macbeth to become what the witches have foreseen, not questioning whether he will achieve it, or even not try. From the very start therefore we see just how powerful Lady Macbeth is, if she can command her husband to murder the king of Scotland. Her power is also shown in the way she taunts Macbeth, saying he is “too full of the milk of human kindness”.

    This shows how cold Lady Macbeth is, she is implying Macbeth is too much like a kind child to murder anyone, which is another method used to spur Macbeth on into killing his king. Her coldness and control is again shown when she begins to plot Duncan’s murder with Macbeth, she says he should “look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it”, more advice for the killing of his king, and “leave the rest to me” shows her cold and calm control over the matter. Lady Macbeth also shows a more helpful side, offering help.

    I may pour my spirits in thine ear”, which although seemingly providing a contrast to her cold hearted plotting earlier, is in fact another way in which she is convincing Macbeth to kill Duncan, she in now being nice to Macbeth to try an show him that she is on his side and is kind and friendly, but is in fact plotting, and this perhaps shows an untrue innocent side to Lady Macbeth. Macbeth however is on the other side in their relationship, and once he builds up the courage to tell her he does not want to continue with the murder.

    But she rallies, calling him a “coward”, saying that if he could murder Duncan “he were a man”. This to Macbeth, a proud and mighty warrior is a deep insult, and he soon is convinced that he will carry out the murder. Lady Macbeth’s cold hearted side again shows, saying she would “dash out the brains of her own child” because she is so sure Macbeth should kill Duncan. We also see how Lady Macbeth’s influence has rubbed off on Macbeth, as he says “False face must hide what the false heart doth know”, which is very similar to Lady Macbeth’s words of the “innocent flower” earlier.

    In act 1 we see how Lady Macbeth has a power over Macbeth, she is cunning and calculated, and despite the fact that Macbeth is the hardened warrior, she is the one who laughs at murder and Macbeth who declines, however we see her exert her power over Macbeth to make him want to murder Duncan, showing how the power in the relationship is all in Lady Macbeth’s hands in the first act. In act two, after murdering Duncan, Macbeth says “This is a sorry sight”, but Lady Macbeth again shows her power over Macbeth. “A foolish thing to say a sorry sight”.

    This shows how she is still cold hearted, as she thinks it is “foolish” for a man to show remorse at a murder he committed. She orders him to not think “so deeply”, saying that thinking about the deed “will make us mad” and “unbend your noble strength”. Here we see a slightly weaker side to Lady Macbeth; she is herself feeling vulnerable to guilt, almost immediately after the murder. This is shown in “will make us mad”. The “us” shows that she is no longer only concerned for Macbeth, but is worried about her own mental state too, worried that she may go mad with guilt.

    But soon after, Lady Macbeth regains her control, and begins to once more organise affairs in her cold and careless way, “go get some water and wash this filthy witness from your hand”. This implies that Lady Macbeth wants Macbeth to get dispose of himself, as she asks him to dispose of ‘this filthy witness´, suggesting that Macbeth rid himself of the part of him that was uncertain and stood watching the other side of him murder Duncan. Again this is another massive request from Lady Macbeth, but Macbeth seems to obey anyway, showing her power over him.

    Macbeth however is “appalled by every noise” and “Wake Duncan with thy knocking”. The fact that he is “appalled by every noise” suggests Macbeth is a nervous wreck, and the fact that he wishes Duncan was alive suggests he is racked by guilt, showing how Lady Macbeth is very much still in control of the relationship. In act three we see Lady Macbeth’s weaknesses coming through, only on her own however. We see that she is troubled by guilt “Tis safer to be that which we destroy than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy”, saying that they never should have murdered Duncan.

    Macbeth too is racked with guilt, “Better be with the dead than on the torture of the mind to lie in restless ecstasy”, saying he would rather be dead with Duncan than alive with his guilt. But despite the fact that both are feeling guilty, Lady Macbeth tries to remain strong in front of Macbeth “Things with without all remedy should be without regard: what’s done is done”. This shows Lady Macbeth again telling Macbeth that the murder has happened and that he should get over it, as nothing can be done to change it.

    There is however a hint of remorse in Lady Macbeth’s voice, showing how she is losing her power over Macbeth, mainly because she is finding it hard to get over her guilt. But we see when Macbeth cries out “O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife” shows how despite Lady Macbeth’s best efforts to make Macbeth forget his evil deeds, he cannot let go, and so Lady Macbeth’s power over him continues to diminish, as she is losing the ability to control him. This appears to be a turning point, and Macbeth now begins to take the matter of murder into his own hands, as he says he is going to perform a “deed of dreadful note”.

    He seems to be in control now, telling her she should be “innocent” of the act, which echoes Lady Macbeth’s “innocent flower” quote earlier, showing how their roles have swapped and the relationship has flipped. We see now that Macbeth has the power over Lady Macbeth, “tomorrow… / … I will to the weird sisters”, implying that Macbeth has started to make decisions for himself, instead of Lady Macbeth organising everything for him. Macbeth also begins to make revelations for himself, saying “I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more returning were as tedious as to go over”.

    This quote shows that Macbeth, despite saying that he did not want to murder Duncan, says that if he were to stop killing now to make amends would be as bad as committing the crime itself. He has decided that he will continue killing and when he says “we are but young in the deed” it shows just how serious Macbeth is, and how far he is willing to go. But Lady Macbeth has no say in this; she is left to acknowledge the guests, showing how the power and control have shifted.

    Although the relationship does not feature much in act four, we can see how Macbeth’s character has changed through the play. When he visits the witches, he is told by them that “Great Birnam Wood” will come against him. Macbeth replies “from this moment the very firstlings of my heart shall be”, implying that the first thought that enters his mind he will act on without thought. This quote also shows how reckless Macbeth has become, as he is facing an attack, the first thing likely to enter his head will be thoughts of death.

    This then shows that Macbeth is willing to kill, firstly without care, and secondly without Lady Macbeth’s consent, showing how the relationship has developed, and power and control have shifted from her to him. In act five, we see Lady Macbeth as a guilty wreck; she is sleepwalking and talking gibberish. She says “What, will these hands never be clean? ” These words echo her word earlier in the play, when she talks of washing “their hands of this deed”, she has now realised that the guilt that has overcome her will never leave.

    The killings have had a profound effect on her, as earlier in the play, she was a cool, calm, controlling wife who could make her proud warrior husband kill at the click of her fingers, whereas now she is overcome with guilt. From this, it is clear that her absence from act four has been time alone, where the ramifications of her actions have been sinking in. Later, we see Macbeth admit that what he has done is wrong, and that he regrets it, but only in private. I have loved long enough”, implying that he wishes to die for what he has done, the deeds are so terrible. He also says “Honour, love, obedience, troops of friends I must look not to have”, suggesting that he does not have the respect, care or friends associated with achievements of this kind. This shows how all passion or love and even respect has been lost in Lady Macbeth’s and Macbeth’s relationship, as he feels he has none of these things. This is a contrast to before, when even if Lady Macbeth was being cold; she was always at his side to help him.

    But now, we see a change in their roles, Macbeth is making his own plans, he is in control and can come to terms with his guilt, shown in “I will fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked”, which not only shows great courage in Macbeth, despite the guilt he is feeling, but also echoes his words earlier, those of the brave captain seen in act one. This quote shows how Macbeth has changed since the murder of Duncan. Had he want to protect what he has done, he would have said “I will fight until I have driven off Macduff” for example.

    But he only mentions until his death occurs. This shows that firstly, he knows what he has done is wrong, but he wants to die for his crimes, but will retain the great pride he had as a noble warrior at the start of the play and fight until he falls. In act five scene five we see again the change in Macbeth’s character, he has gone from the man who was “appalled be every noise”, as said someone who would be a nervous wreck, to a man who has “almost forgot the taste of fears” as has “supped full with horrors”.

    This implies that Macbeth no longer fears anything, for he has seen too much violence and fear to be affected anymore. This is a vast contrast to the nervous wreck which killed Duncan, and shows how much he has changed. After news of Lady Macbeth’s death is brought to him, Macbeth reflects on the futility of his actions “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by and idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing”.

    This shows a man who has looked back on his life and seen that he has achieved nothing. For Macbeth, this is particularly prominent, as he has made the sacrifice of his inner peace due to what boils down to his and his wife’s ambition. However in this speech, he recognises that his actions were futile, as no matter how hard one “struts and frets” in life, it is “but a walking shadow” and “signifying nothing”, and Macbeth has thrown away “his hour”, as his life or his play was “full of sound and fury”.

    However, we must ask whether it is this futility in life discovered by Macbeth, or the fact that their relationship has been deteriorating that Macbeth almost shrugs off his wife’s death? Perhaps it is her cold hearted ways which have taught him not to care. But in any case, here we see how their relationship has deteriorated to such a state that Macbeth no longer cares if she is alive or not, where as before he had trouble with Duncan’s death, someone far less close to him than his own wife.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Power of Lady Macbeth. (2018, May 26). Retrieved from

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