Tuesday, January 14, 2020

“His fiend-like queen” Does this seem a fitting judgement of Lady Macbeth? Essay

Upon beginning the play, one first believes that Lady Macbeth does indeed possess the evil, inhumane characteristics of a fiend. Within minutes of reading Macbeth’s letter, in which he informs her that according to the prophecy of the witches’ he is a â€Å"king that shalt be†, she contemplates regicide, in the belief that â€Å"fate and metaphysical aid doth seem to have [Macbeth] crown’d withal.† Though this introductory scene portrays her as â€Å"fiend-like†, despite condemning Macbeth for being â€Å"too fill o’ the milk of human kindness†, she herself is worried that â€Å"compunctious vistings of nature† will † shake [her] fell purpose† of murder. She then turns to demonic spirits, calling them to â€Å"fill [her] from the crown to the toe full of direst cruelty.† It is the feminine traits of compassion and fallibility often attributed to women of the Jacobean era that causes to Lady Macbeth beg the spirits to â€Å"unsex [her] here [†¦] and take [her milk for gall]†, for women’s capacity for cruelty was considered to be inferior to that of men. Lady Macbeth is fully aware of her weaknesses both as a human and especially as a woman that may â€Å"impede [them] from the golden round.† From this we see that Lady Macbeth is not naturally evil, for she calls upon the supernatural to aid her in the murder they are planning to commit. This is also shown in terms of language, for Lady Macbeth speaks in iambic pentameter, which conveys the human heart beat. This is in contrast to the non-human, fiendish, witches who use a different verse form. Therefore Lady Macbeth’s verse shows that not only is she human, she, unlike the demonic, has a heart. Though it is Lady Macbeth, through seductive verse, emotional blackmail and her powers of manipulation, who finally persuades Macbeth to kill Duncan it must be remembered that murder was not, initially, the idea of Lady Macbeth. It was Macbeth who, on the fulfilment of the first prophecy of the witches, entertains â€Å"horrible imaginings† of â€Å"murder yet [†¦] fantastical.† As a woman, it is true that Lady Macbeth was only able to achieve success through her husband and, perhaps, she may have exploited his weaknesses in order to gain power. Nevertheless, from a different perspective, it may appear that Lady Macbeth simply encouraged and supported her husband’s ambition, for it is Macbeth himself who satisfies his â€Å"black and deep desires† by killing Duncan. It is also evident that though Lady Macbeth may be â€Å"fiend-like† in word, she appears to be quite human in her actions. For Malcolm’s judgement on Lady Macbeth seems utterly justified when she talks of â€Å"the babe that milks [her],† for she claims that even â€Å"while it was smiling in [her] face/ Have pluck’d [her] nipple from his boneless gums,/And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn†. It follows that â€Å"fiend-like† is a true description of her character, for it is only an evil, inhumane fiend who would murder an innocent and helpless baby. However, Lady Macbeth soon reveals her inconsistency when she confesses that she would have murdered Duncan â€Å"had he not resembled [her] father as he slept†. From this comment we see that Lady Macbeth is more humane than she would like to believe. She also claims that she has known â€Å"how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks [her]†. Lady Macbeth has experienced love and this love must still remain, for it is her love for her father that stops her killing Duncan. Therefore Lady Macbeth cannot be fully fiend-like as she possesses the decidedly human quality of love. Paranoia causes Macbeth, against his wife’s wishes, to hire murderers to kill his former friend Banquo, and his son Fleance. Lady Macbeth feels that â€Å"[their] desire is got without content† and begs her husband to â€Å"leave this† when he hints at disposing of Banquo. He ceases to involve his â€Å"partner of greatness† in his plans and she is evidently no longer dominant in the relationship. Instead Lady Macbeth is now in the position which befitted a Jacobean wife, for, according to prevalent Christian belief, the husband was the head of the family. Whereas Macbeth appears to no longer possess a conscience, Lady Macbeth is plagued by hers. She sleepwalks regularly, for â€Å"unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles† and is afraid of the dark, having â€Å"a light by her continually†, even carrying a candle whilst sleepwalking. This is in contrast to the time when she called â€Å"come thick night†; she is afraid of the darkness which she once summoned. She, who scorned Macbeth when he feared that regicide will cause them to â€Å"jump the life to come†, now fears eternal damnation. She pleads with the damning guilt to leave her, crying â€Å"out, out damned spot†. In her disturbed sleep she instructs herself to â€Å"wash your hands†, in the hope that â€Å"a little water will clear [them] of this deed. However, it is soon clear that Macbeth’s fear as to whether â€Å"all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood/Clean from [his] hand† is not unfounded, for Lady Macbeth soon despairs that â€Å"these hands [will] ne’er be clean.† Earlier in the play Lady Macbeth is shown to be a master of language in her manipulation of Macbeth. Due to her distressed state of mind she has lost the ability to speak in verse and instead uses distracted prose. At one point her language breaks down to doggerel, on her remembrance that â€Å"the Thane of Fife had a wife†. Lady Macbeth is no longer aware of her surroundings, as her mind recalls the various murders of Duncan, Banquo and the Macduffs. It is difficult to ascertain whether at times she is talking to herself or to Macbeth, for she is evidently in conversation with someone, exactly who is not clear, though she makes one reference to â€Å"My Lord†, Macbeth. Her insanity is also shown by her the inconsistency of her speeches and her total disregard for chronology, for she confuses the order of the murders as well as the present with the past. Her parting words recognise the hopelessness of her situation, for she knows that â€Å"what’s done cannot be undone†. This also shows that, unlike her husband, Lady Macbeth feels remorse for their actions. She is sorry that their actions â€Å"cannot be undone†. Macbeth, on the other hand, shows no sign of regret, for he feels that he is â€Å"in blood/Stepp’d in so far, that should [he] wade no more, /Returning were as tedious as go o’er.† Murder, including that of innocent, women and children are part of course with him. A distraught Lady Macbeth begs â€Å"No more o’ that my Lord, no more o’ that†, for memories of the murders serve only to torment her, though it is she who earlier unfeelingly remarked that â€Å"what’s done is done† with the belief that â€Å"things without all remedy/Should be without regard†. Her guilt has driven her to near insanity and her conscience is so disturbed as to confuse her mental faculties. Eventually, Lady Macbeth â€Å"by self and violent hands/Took off her life† for Lady Macbeth is unable to bear the burden of guilt any longer and suicide appears to be her only option. According to Jacobean belief, suicide led to certain damnation, and Lady Macbeth’s untimely end is evidence of her despairing of hope in the next life, for she will now â€Å"jump the life to come† having resigned herself to â€Å"deep damnation.† This, if anything, is proof that Lady Macbeth is not â€Å"fiend-like†. Lady Macbeth regrets their actions, begging her husband to cease his murdering, a sign that unlike her husband, she still possesses a morsel of humanity. Lady Macbeth is by no means evil, for evil has no conscience, whereas the conscience of Lady Macbeth is very much in evidence As an audience we witness, through the medium of the stage, the breakdown of Lady Macbeth. We watch her eventual unravelling, from her initial ambitious determination to murder the king, to her final, desperate act of suicide. We gradually realise, that Malcolm, blinded by the knowledge that Lady Macbeth was instrumental in his father’s death, is too harsh in his judgement of her. By showing signs of remorse, not to mention an unwillingness to kill Duncan and an inability to be cruel without aid, Lady Macbeth proves that she has not the evil of a fiend. She is certainly not without conscience, having been tortured by guilt, nor is she without feeling, for she has known â€Å"how tender ’tis to love†. I conclude, therefore, that though Lady Macbeth is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a â€Å"gentle lady†, she is certainly no fiend. Though, at the beginning of the play she may have appeared to be as evil and inhumane as a fiend, by its closing, she is seen to be a wretched, desolate woman who deserves our pity.

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