Lady Macbeth Is The Real Driving Force

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Lady Macbeth Is The Real Driving Force Behind The Murder Of King Duncan? Essay, Research Paper

In this essay I am to discuss the statement ?Lady Macbeth is the real driving force behind the murder of King Duncan? and decide

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whether I believe this viewpoint is correct or whether I believe that there

were other influences on the dagger hand of the Thane of Cawdor. To come to a

decision and accomplish my task, I will be looking at the events leading up to

the murder and the characters involved in the decision to murder Duncan. Also,

I will need to look at the historical and cultural aspects of the play like why

witches were included in the play and also the ways that the play was written

around the true story of King Macbeth of Scotland.We first encounter the character of Lady Macbeth in

Act 1 Scene 5 while she is reading the letter sent to her by Macbeth describing

his first encounter with the three witches. From then on she shows herself to

be ambitious and strong mentally yet weak in her actions (she found herself

unable to kill Duncan herself, and gave the excuse that he looked too much like

her father as he slept). As soon as she reads the letter, she decides that

Macbeth will be the next Scottish King and fulfil the witches prophecy no

matter the method. This proves that Lady Macbeth was a driving force behind Duncan?s murder, but the question remains –

was she the true driving force behind

the event? To answer this question, I need to look at all the influences involved, and to do this I first need to

ask,? ?What is it that started both

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth thinking of kingships and murder?? The answer is the

wyrd sisters of the blasted heath ? the three witches.The witches were used in the play for two main

reasons. First and foremost, they were used as a catalyst to start the chain of

events resulting in Duncan?s murder, the suicide of Lady Macbeth, and the fall

of Dunsinane to the revolutionary forces of MacDuff. Secondly, they were used

as a personification of evil for the audiences. This was a symbolic character

they could relate with, since the play was written especially for King James I

of England, who was also King James VI of Scotland and a staunch believer in

and hater of witchcraft. As the king believed that witches were evil and in

league with the devil, so too did the common people of England. Therefore, they

would quite readily believe that a witch could cast spells, see into the

future, tie wind into three knots, and become your mortal enemy if you refused

to give them food, among other things. The general view of the people was that

witches were the emissaries of the devil, and since at that time, religion

played a major part in the lives of people, these witches were seen as pure

evil. Witches were the most evil things on earth, and these three witches were

no exception to that rule. The witches, through three sentences helped the

imaginations of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to start forming ideas of murder.

These statements took the forms of prophecy ? ? ?All hail Macbeth! hail to

thee, Thane of Glamis!? ?All hail Macbeth! hail to thee Thane of Cawdor!? ?All

hail Macbeth! thou shalt be king hereafter.??. Without these predictions, the

seeds of grim imagination they planted in the minds of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

would never have taken seed to result in the death of Duncan. There is a chance

that if it wasn?t for these three witches, the Macbeth?s would never have even

contemplated murder. None of the events involving the witches would have

happened though if they had been unable to convince Macbeth of the authenticity

of their statements. To do this they did things like addressing him by name,

although he had never met them before; also, they made him believe the

predictions through the first two statements. The witches? first statement,

hail to thee, Thane of Glamis? convinced Macbeth that these ?weIrd sisters? knew

him, and maybe had supernatural powers. The second statement, ??hail to thee,

Thane of Cawdor? convinced Macbeth that the witches could see into the future,

since he himself only found out he was Thane of Cawdor after the witches had

disappeared. These convinced Macbeth that ?they [the witches] have more in them

than mortal knowledge.? The final convincing event came at the witches? exit,

when they ?made themselves air?The witches may have planted the seeds in Macbeth?s

brain, but it was his own ambition that helped these seeds to grow into

thoughts of murder. Macbeth was the first character to think of murder. This is

indicated in his first soliloquy by phrases such as ?why do I yield to that

suggestion, whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart

knock at my ribs, against the use of nature?? and refer to these murderous

thoughts as ?horrible imaginings?. His use of the word ?yield? indicates that

Macbeth does not want to be thinking these treacherous thoughts. Despite his

aspirations and ambitions, he decides against murder, using the line ?if chance

will crown me king, why chance may crown me without a stir?. Macbeth has

decided to leave the future to chance, but his thoughts of murder by this time

have already weakened any resolve he had to stick by this decision. He is left

impressionable, and so to persuade him to do the very thing he decided against

would take less effort than it probably would usually. Macbeth?s deliberation about leaving things to

chance is called into question though in Act 1 Scene 4, in which Duncan

pronounces Malcolm his successor. ?The Prince of Cumberland: that is a step on

which I must fall down, or else o?erleap, for in my way it stands.? Macbeth

says in this quote ?or else o?erleap?, which suggests that he is again thinking

of alternative methods of achieving the kingship. These thoughts could have

come originally from his own ambition, or it could have come from the witches

making him more susceptible to these suggestions. This could be the case because

Macbeth?s first lines ? ?So fair and foul a day I have not seen? emulates the

witches line in Act 1 Scene 1, ?Fair is foul and foul is fair? The character of Macbeth is courageous and a good

general. He has a reputation for being one of the king?s elite soldiers. He

regularly receives praise from everyone, from the captain who acts as a

messenger and describes Macbeth as ?Brave Macbeth ? well he deserves that

name?, up to the Thane of Ross, describing him as ?most worthy Thane?. His

praise even comes from the King himself, calling him ?valiant cousin, worthy

gentleman?. He seems to all intents and purposes as the perfectly loyal

soldier, commanding the kings armies against their enemy, the Norwegians, and

winning. The perfect soldier he seems, yet he has three main downfalls: his

ambition, his imagination, and his love for his wife. These three things

combined made him susceptible to the pressure put on him by Lady Macbeth. Macbeth?s ambition gave him a part of his mind that,

although he was fighting the thought of murder, kept re-suggesting it. No

matter how much the idea repulsed him, this part of him still wanted to be sat

on the Stone of Scone, regardless of the cost to his own morality. His

imagination introduced the concept of murder in the first place, before he even

sent the letter to his wife. His love for his wife is the main downfall though,

since it is his wife who pushes him into the act. She did this by challenging

his masculinity, accusing him of cowardice and saying he has no determination

when Macbeth resolves not to go through with the deed. All the pressure, guilt, and mental and emotional

stress finally get to him just before the murder, making him hallucinate. He

sees a floating dagger leading him towards Duncan?s chamber. ?Is this a dagger I

see before me,? he says, allowing the audience to know he is hallucinating. He didn?t find the murder itself easy, since after

he entered, he began having auditory hallucinations. He thought he heard one of

the kings bodyguards say ? ?God bless us? and ?Amen? the other?, yet he found

himself unable to say ?Amen?. This was probably his subconscious mind telling

him that he was going against God; this is because at the time the play was

written, the people believed that the monarch was appointed by God, and so to

go against the monarch was not only to go against God, but disrupt the

cosmological order in the nation. Macbeth was so overcome with guilt after the murder

that he went into shock, unable to go back to the scene of the murder to return

the daggers which he, in a state of horror and repulsion at what he had done,

had forgotten to leave behind. He remarked ?Will all great Neptune?s oceans

wash this blood clean from my hands?? while he tries to wash away the royal

blood. He was racked with guilt about his actions. Looking at Macbeth in this

state, we realise he could never have murdered Duncan on his own, with only his

ambition driving him. Lady Macbeth must have played a part in the outcomes of

that evening.Lady Macbeth knew her husband very well. She

understood his strengths and weaknesses probably better than he did, and this

is why she had so little trouble persuading him to kill Duncan. She knew how to

use these strengths and weaknesses to her own advantage while suggesting murder

to Macbeth. One of Macbeth?s weaknesses would seem to be his pride in his

masculinity, and his inability to back down from a challenge or argument. You

can see how Lady Macbeth exploits this weakness with phrases like ?art thou

afeared to be the same in act and valour as thou art in desire?? and ?would

thou have that which thou esteem?st the ornament of life, and live a coward in

thine own esteem?? These two quotes ask Macbeth if he is afraid to do what he

set out to do, and asking him if he thinks he can achieve the crown without

doing anything to make it come about through his actions; ?like the poor cat

i?th?adage?. This refers to a proverb, or adage, where a cat wants to catch a

fish, but isn?t willing to get his feet wet. Therefore the fish got away from

the cat as the crown would get away from Macbeth.? You can see from Lady Macbeth?s actions that she is pushing

Macbeth towards murder, showing herself to be a driving force. Lady Macbeth is ambitious for her husband. She shows

this by showing no indication of doubt, suspicion, or hesitation in her

reaction to reading of the witches prophecy. She doesn?t just decide that her

husband should become king, but starts believing that he will be king

without any doubt that it will happen. Her one concern is Macbeth?s ability to

fulfil the prophecy, fearing he is 2too full of the milk of human kindness? to

be able to do what it takes to become king. However, she believes she can win

him over with the ?valour of my tongue?, which she eventually does,

re-suggesting murder to her husband, encouraging him, even pressuring him to do

it. Lady Macbeth, for all her faults does have her

feminine qualities. She is a loving wife, caring for the well being of her

husband, and only forcing his hand when she knows he can?t do it himself. She

is described as ?honoured hostess? in Act 1 Scene 7. She could however be doing

exactly as she had said in this scene ? ?look like th?innocent flower, but be

the serpent under?t?, and probably is. She has to force herself to be strong

and ruthless, perhaps too much. While Macbeth is having ?horrible imaginings?

of the future beyond the murder in his soliloquy at the beginning of Act 1

Scene 7, Lady Macbeth forbids herself this. She becomes entirely focused on the

murder, not even contemplating failure. Her absoluteness of purpose, her total

discipline, and her full control of the situation are immaculate. She succeeds

in morally paralysing Macbeth with her willpower. Eventually, her rigid

self-discipline plays a part in her later insanity. Macbeth eventually came to realise the precarious

nature of his position. Lady Macbeth hasn?t done this, for the rigid

self-discipline she has crafted will not allow her. This results in a build up

of gilt, which causes her eventual insanity. She forces herself to be strong and

cruel, but doesn?t accept that the ?sovereign sway of masterdom? she expected

has not materialised. Her character is very strong and, as I have said

before, excelling in self-discipline. Her mentality is stronger than her will

physically. She can persuade Macbeth to murder Duncan in his sleep, but she

cannot do it herself because he ?resembled my father as he slept?. In Act 1

Scene 7, she, while persuading Macbeth to commit the act, outlines her plan,

something which she alone devised. Through doing this, she proves that she has

been thinking about the murder, maybe non-stop, since the characters first

discussion in Act 1 Scene 5. She plans the whole thing out for Macbeth, just

leaving him to do it. She does all the thinking, but she didn?t play a part in

the actual murder, she didn?t help carry the deed out, she just planned it. In

her plan, she outlines ways of diverting the blame from them ? using the guards

daggers, then leaving them with the drugged guards covered with blood. She

tells Macbeth while he is trying to wash the blood from his hands ?a little

water clears us of this deed?. She seems to feel no immediate guilt after the

murder, no remorse, just satisfaction that her husband will be king- that is if

she can keep him from making everyone suspect them. Near the end of the play

however, her guilt catches up with her, and she starts sleepwalking, saying

things like ?who would have thought the old had so much blood in him?,

obviously talking of Duncan. She denies her conscience until she cannot anymore,

then apparently goes mad.One question remains ? Why did Shakespeare use Lady

Macbeth as a cause for the murder of Duncan? To answer this, we need to look at

the history of Scotland.? The real Macbeth was born around 1005, son of the

second daughter of the King, Malcolm II. His wife?s name was Gruoch. Her

brother and her first husband both died at the hands of Malcolm?s followers,

who were headed by the son of Malcolm?s first daughter, the man who became his

successor, King Duncan I of Scotland. Avenging his wife and disputing the

throne, Macbeth, Thane of Cromarty and Moray, brought Duncan?s rule to an

abrupt end: on 14 August 1040, Duncan was mortally wounded in a battle at

Pitgaveny after six years as King. Macbeth reigned for a further seventeen years

before he was killed in a skirmish at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire. The vengeance of his wife?s brother and first

husband were the reason Macbeth killed Duncan, and it may have been his wife

who persuaded him to take vengeance. Therefore, we can assume that Shakespeare

originally had Lady Macbeth as the real driving force, but added the witches

for the benefit of King James I, and the ambition of Macbeth for the audience

and for the story.Looking at the evidence I have shown in this essay,

I can determine that Lady Macbeth was a major driving force behind the

assassination, but Macbeth?s ambition and the witches prophecies played an

important part in the final outcome. Without the witches? prophetic statements

the chain reaction ending in the death of Duncan may never have started.

Without Macbeth?s ambition, Lady Macbeth may not have been able to persuade

Macbeth to commit murder for a crown. Without Lady Macbeth?s ruthless

determination, Duncan would most probably not have been murdered. I can therefore

determine that Lady Macbeth was a Driving force behind the murder of Duncan,

but she was not the real driving force.