William Shakespeare is without a doubt the most popular playwright in the history of the theatre. Shakespeare wrote over thirty plays, and none more popular than Macbeth. Macbeth, a tragedy in five acts, is based on episodes in the life of a king of Scotland, who lived from 1005-1057. Both Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, have a driving ambition that turns each of them into a spiral of guilt and evil.
No character in any of Shakespeares plays undergoes such a radical change as that which transforms Lady Macbeth from a nearly superhuman character in the first act of Macbeth into a sleep-walking zombie at the start of the fifth and final act in the play. When we first meet Lady Macbeth she is in the Inverness reading a letter from Macbeth (I. V). While reading the letter she finds that three witches have told Macbeth that he shall be the Thane of Cawdor but most importantly that he will be king. Upon hearing this news Lady Macbeth immediately begins to scheme and plot.Order now
She wants Macbeth to be king but worries that he is too kind and that without the evil he needs to join with his ambition, he will not be able to find the quickest route to the throne. To avoid this problem Lady Macbeth decides to pour the spirits of her own evilness into Macbeths ears and drive away the fear that will hold him back from getting the crown. At the beginning of the MacBeth, Lady MacBeth is very savage and vicious. She thinks nothing of killing King Duncan. She has no sense of what is wrong and right, and believes that it is perfectly moral to do the deed of murder.
She states that to not go through with the deed would be horrible to yourself, and that you would be a coward in your own eyes. “Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem,” She states that if she was MacBeth and did not jump at this perfect opportunity, that if a child, being fed at her breast, where as Duncan is, king, she would tear it from her and “dash’d the brains out” to have the opportunity MacBeth does. This shows how mad and sadistic she was.
She had absolutely no self- conscience, and thought nothing about the wrong they were soon to commit. Later on, after the murders, she, unlike MacBeth, still shows no signs of a conscience. She is very cool and collected, while MacBeth hallucinates and goes temporarily mad. Lady MacBeth on the other hand, takes everything calmly. She takes the daggers back to the King’s room, smears blood on the drunken guards, and attempts to destroy all evidence of MacBeth ever being there. She knows what needs to be done and does it without any hesitation or fear.
However, it is later on in the story, that it is revealed to us that Lady MacBeth’s conscience is strong. When sleep walking one night, Lady MacBeth (seemingly somewhat insane) begins blabbering about spots of blood on her hands. “Out damned spot! out, I say! One; two: why, then ’tis time to do’t Hell is murky! Fie, my lord – fie! a soldier and afeard? ” When at first she believes that “a little water clears us of this deed”, and now she can smell the blood on her hands still, and “all the perfumes of Arabia will ot sweeten this little hand”.
She now realizes the consequences of what she has done. She knows that the sin will be on her soul forever, and that nothing will be able to cleanse it. She realizes “What’s done cannot be undone”. But this can not be redemption. She has done the deed and must expect the consequences. Her wrong doing has been too much, she has committed the mortal sin. Though she now realizes it (even this is skeptical, since she was sleep-walking at the time), she has still the deed on her soul. It can never be otally cleansed, therefore Lady MacBeth can never have total redemption.
Lady MacBeth is a complex character. She is seen as two totally different people as the play progresses. At first, she is crazy about getting the power of the King. She is brutish and sadistic in both the things she says and does. But as the play progresses, she begins to understand the consequences of her actions, and goes slightly mad from these thoughts. She can never be totally redeemed of her mortal sin, and realizes this. It is perhaps this, that gives her the most redemption of all.