Macbeth: Lady Macbeth’s Influence On The Audience And Themes Essay, Research Paper
In the play “Macbeth”, I think Shakespear, the author, uses characters in the structure of the play to a large effect. In Act1,
I think Banquo was used by Shakespear as a contrast to Macbeth; they are close friends, and have similar personalities, but when they are each prophesised great things by the witches, Banqo does not become as amitious as Macbeth does. I think this shows that Lady Macbeth played a large part in influencing Macbeth to murder Duncan and attain what was prophesised for him. Banquo had no-one to be persuded by, and if Macbeth was not married to Lady Macbeth, he would be the same. If the witches could forsee the future, Macbeth would have no need to kill Duncan to become king, as he would become king eventually due to something else. She seems to be fearful that Macbeth will ruin his chance of kingship, because he does not have the ambition to gain it:
“shalt be what thou art promised: 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 without ambition, but without the illness should attend it” I think her attempts to influence Macbeth show that shepossibly wants to control the future and be in control of the forces of nature. In Act1 Scene5 she shows this more clearly:
“That no compunctious visitings of nature shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between the effect and it!” She does persue this through unnatural means.
Early in the play, Lady Macbeth displays supernatural beleifs, for example, in Act1 Scene5, she says things linked with the supernatural, for example, “that I may pour my spirits in thine ear” and “Come, thick night, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell”. She also calls on the spirits to change her mother’s milk to gall, or poison; this is a stricking image that contrasts life, the milk, and death, the poison. Her interest in the supernatural creates an interesting character which intrigues the audience. At the time the play was written, women were seen as passive people who didn’t play a large part in society or show the manipulation and courage of Lady Macbeth, so I think the audience of Macbeth at Shakespears time, which would be all male, would almost feel threatened by Lady Macbeth, and her supernatural interests would further intrigue them. Another unusual quality of Lady Macbeth is her intelligence and ability, for example, at the beginning of Act1 Scene5 she is reading a letter from her husband. At that time, very few people would be taught to read, women were especially neglected in education.
I think Macbeth and his wife have a very close relationship which was uncommon for the couples of Shakespeare’s time. Lady Macbeth does not fit the prejudice image of the wife, for example, it is her who lays the knives next to the drunk bodygaurds and smears them with blood during the murder scene, which she does willingly and confidently, and far more bravery than Macbeth displayed in the same situation. Even though Lady Macbeth seems powerful and masculine, she retains her femininity; in Act1 Scene5 she uses her sexuality to manipulate Macbeth. When he enters, her speech concentrates on his body, “your face”, “your eye”, “your hand, your tongue”, and I think she is seducing him and using their close relationship which makes Macbeth feel trusting and loyal so that he will do what his wife tells him. The way Lady Macbeth speaks is also persuasive in this way. In one line of the same scene, her words alliterate with the letter “s”, which sounds like a whisper; the actor playing Lady Macbeth might be whispering the sentence in Macbeth’s ear, again being very seductive. However, I think Lady Macbeth sees her femininity as a barrier. Femininity is seen as delicate and passive, but Lady Macbeth attepts to be the opposite, and she asks the spirits to “unsex” her asks “fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty!”. This again shows her supernatural side. She uses her femininity in other ways; in act2 scene3, when Macbeth says something which confused the others present and might of revealed Macbeth’s crime to them, Lady Macbeth distracts them and takes the attention on herself by pretending to feel ill. The text does not say she faints, but the actor playing her possibly does, as Lady Macbeth is later carried off the stage.
One theme I think the play is concerned with is wtchcraft and the unnatural. I have already discussed how Lady Macbeth beleives in the supernatural and how she is unnatural herself. At the time the play was written, in the early seventeenth century, witchcraft was an important issue. People who seemed to posses unnatural abilities were feared by society and were killed. Humans often try to get rid of what they fear, which is usually just something they do not understand. I think Shakespeare has used the fascination with the unnatural to gain the interest of the audience. Shakespeare’s audience would have strong attitudes on the behavior of some characters such as Lady Macbeth and the witches.
The morning after the murder, Lennox speaks to Macbeth and describes the bad weather he had during the night. He says the night “has been unruly: where we lay” and he heard “lamentings heard i’ the air; strange screams of death, and prophesying with accents terrible of dire combustion and confused events new hatch’d to thewoeful time”
Another theme the play deals with is how society is oredered and ranked. In the play, Macbeth defys the law of social ranking to move to the top of society. The play displays the chain of being, where god is highest, followed by the king, lords, and other members of society. In the play, Macbeth abuses this chain by killing the king. By breaking the laws of nature Macbeth brings disaster on himself. Nature turns on him, and he mentions that he can no longer sleep after killing the king. He says that “Glamis hath murder’d sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more”. This shows the link between Macbeth’s action of murdering the king, breaking the law of nature, and his punishment.
At the time the play was written, The rule of England was given to king James I after Elizabeth died. James I was a Scottish king, and initially his citizens would be very cautious of a foreign king taking the throne. I think Shakespeare used the play “Macbeth” to confront isues of kingship for the new king to contemplate. After ames I, Charles I took the throne, who caused the civil war in England, leading to a revolution in the way the country is governed. Charles and James were the last rulers who beleived in and used the divine rght of kings, which means the monarch is given his power from god, and rules without question with only god above him. I think the play questions how the king should be determined, because it is possible that an unrighteous person could gain rule through unnatural means which actually go against god’s laws. The play questions whether a monarch such as Macbeth should have the unquestionable right to be the absolute ruler. James I would have seen the play on it’s first showing; the plays, especially those written by a playwrite as famous as Shakespeare, were an important social event for all classes. The play itself features two kings, Duncan and Macbeth. Macbeth’s rule was unsuccessful; people disliked him, his country lost battles, and it ended in disaster. Duncan’s rule was very different. His country won battles, he spread happiness in his people by giving them titles for example. There are differences between the two, which I think are points Shakespeare isindicating how a king should and shouldn’t behave. Duncan ruled with his people. He had many thanes and advisors, similar to modern day’s parliament. He was always seen with other people in each scene he was involved in, he would enter with a large group. Macbeth was the opposite. He and his wife often spoke privately and kept secrets from his people. Duncan showed that he cared for his people. In Act1 Scene2, Duncan speaks with a wounded sargeant. He talks to him as an equal. The sargeant feels he can talk to Duncan like a friend, for example, he makes a joke:
“as sparrows eagles or the hare the lion” when Duncan asks if Macbeth was worried about the battle. Duncan also sends the wounded sargeant for medical attention.