Macbeth 4 Essay, Research Paper
In the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth is a woman driven by love and ambition. In the beginning, she appears to be very tough; yet, she weakens, as Macbeth grows fouler in his deeds. Lady Macbeth is able to spurn her husband on his evil pursuit of becoming king, but she cannot handle the human feelings of guilt are remorse that go along with this act.
It is because of Lady Macbeth’s sly urgings that Macbeth acts on his evil desires and kills King Duncan. She becomes impatient when her husband cannot carry out the end of the murder plan. When Macbeth returns to his chamber after killing Duncan and Lady Macbeth learns that he did not carry out the end of the plan, the reader sees a moment of panic in Lady Macbeth. She quickly regains her composure, though, and decides that she must complete the plan herself. She says to Macbeth, “Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures.” (II,ii,67-70) At this point in the novel, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as strong, determined, and maybe even heartless. However, with a more in depth look at the situation, it can also be said that she if full of love for her husband. One could say that Lady Macbeth was a devoted wife, and out of love, she wanted to help Macbeth become the king. She shows care and compassion when Macbeth returns to the bedchamber after killing the king. He is stunned by the act that he has committed and Lady Macbeth, with the tenderness of a mother, calms her husband. Therefore, right from the start we see that Lady Macbeth has more than one face, and we learn in the play, which one will prevail.
All through the play, Lady Macbeth shows a face of calmness, one that feels no guilt or remorse for the actions she is partly responsible for. She watches as her husband becomes increasingly consumed by evil, but she always appears calm and collected. When Macbeth, at the dinner party, goes temporarily crazy with guilt, she puts her best face forward, and manages to get the guests to leave before her husband causes too much damage to his reputation. The reader thinks at this point that Lady Macbeth has no feelings. She does not seem to be haunted by what she has done, or what her husband has done. She shows little compassion toward him in his distressed state, though he could clearly use some. This could be thought of as her being uncaring, and having no feelings, but it could be seen as her repressing her feelings. Maybe she cannot show compassion toward Macbeth because that would mean confronting what she had done. She tells her ailing husband, “You lack all the seasons of all natures, sleep.” (III, iv, 173) She tells him to sleep, ignore the problem, and maybe it will go away. She thinks that they can hide from their guilt in sleep. This is ironic, because the reader will later learn that Lady Macbeth is not a guilt-free as she appears, but she expresses it only in her precious sleep.
Until Act V we see a strong woman, who, although she occasionally falters, seems to be coping alright with the normal feelings of guilt and remorse that would go along with her actions. However, we make a startling discovery in Act V. Lady Macbeth is torn by her feelings of guilt and this has caused her to sleep walk. She scolded Macbeth for almost giving away their secret, but unknowingly, she is putting it on display for all to see. Lady Macbeth took all of her feelings on the situation and buried them deep. She hides them from the world, and from herself. She tried to pretend that the feelings were not there, and her sleepwalking was a way of releasing these stored emotions. We see here that Lady Macbeth is weakening, she is feeling the strain of what she has done. We see evidence of her remorse in her delusion of blood stained hands. The gentlewoman and doctor look on curiously as she desperately tries to wash the blood off her hands. Lady Macbeth is breaking under the strain of guilt and the tangled web of lies. She wanders around the house, replaying the actions of the night of Duncan’s murder; intermingled with this she speaks of the other murders that led from the first. “The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now?” (V, i, 44-45) She also mentions the murder of Banquo in saying, “I tell you again; Banquo’s dead. He cannot come out on ’s grave.” (V, i, 66-67) In addition, two this ghastly scene there is two onlookers: Lady Macbeth’s gentlewoman and a doctor. These two witness her actions, and piece together what has happened. The doctor immediately warns the gentlewoman to watch Lady Macbeth carefully. He seems to have some fear that she will harm herself.
The life of Lady Macbeth ends rather anti-climactically. She cannot live with what she has done, and what she has helped turn her husband into, so she kills herself. In all honesty, this was not much of a surprise to me. It also seems like a logical solution for a person such as Lady Macbeth. She appears to be a strong person. She acts as if she can take on the world, and make it bow at her feet, but that is the problem. Lady Macbeth is nothing more than talk. In aiding Macbeth in killing Duncan, she had finally acted, but the consequences of her actions were too much to bear. There was no where else to turn. She could not betray her husband, and turn him in, because this would also incriminate herself. She also could not keep hiding from the truth, which was tearing her apart. SO she could not hide from the truth, she could not face it, and she could no longer help her husband with his evil. That left only one solution in her mind. She knows that she has done something that cannot be fixed. She says, “What’s done cannot be undone.” (V, i, 71) The entire first scene in Act V shows how desperate Lady Macbeth has become. She feels that there is no way for her to repent for her sin. She says, “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” (V, i, 53-55) She feels there is no other way out, so she ends all earthly problems.
Love and ambition can only drive a person so far. Love may be blind, but its actions cannot remain unexposed forever. There are forces greater than love that worked on Lady Macbeth. Guilt, virtue, morals, honesty, and regret countered her love and ambition. Though her love makes her strong, she is constantly being eaten at by all these other emotions. It is like letting a nest of termites loose on the stilts that support a beachouse. The stilts may appear strong, and may continue to appear so as they are being eaten. Then one day, there will no longer be enough support and the house will fall. Unless, some sees the problem and faces it, the house will continue to get weaker and weaker. Lady Macbeth could not do it, and she took the coward’s way, right to the end.