In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, one character that I found particularly thought provoking was Lady Macbeth. Initially, she is manipulative and dominant in her relationship with Macbeth and she goads him into committing regicide but by the end she is powerless, desolate and stricken with guilt. She is self-deceiving because she believes she is man like and she wants power at any cost, but she cannot cope emotionally and goes mad because of her guilt. It is the mixture of fragility and strength than makes Lady Macbeth unique and interesting, and her utter transformation from an ambitious wife a desolate, suicidal shadow of herself.
This is thought provoking because she is unusual, maybe even unique in literature and she makes us consider parallels we can see in real life. At the start of the play, Lady Macbeth appears brave and determined. She is prepared to do anything so that Macbeth could become king and she could become queen. She asks the ‘spirits’ to “unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty. ” She believes she can be manlike and have no conscience but she never expected Macbeth to go as far as he did.
She thinks that she will be able to forget about killing Duncan when she returns after returning Macbeth’s daggers- “a little water clears us of this deed. ” We see later in the play that this is not the case, and she cannot wash the blood from her hands when she says “Out, damned spot! Out I say! ” and “What, will these hands ne’er be clean? ” she thought that she had no conscience, so she wouldn’t feel any guilt when persuaded Macbeth to kill Duncan, but we see later in the play that this has affected her and she still has blood on her hands so she can’t forget what she has done.
The Metaphor of literally having blood on her hands is used to show Lady Macbeths guilt. Macbeth asks the doctor whether he can make her forget her crimes- “canst thou not minister to a mind diseas’d, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow? ” This is a question that applies to Macbeth himself as much as it does to Lady Macbeth. Both characters find that their guilt haunts them, but Lady Macbeth, unlike Macbeth deceived herself into thinking that she would not be affected by murder. This makes us realize that, although she didn’t seem so, Lady Macbeth was naive at the start of the play in thinking that she would not be haunted by her actions.
This challenges us to consider whether she would have been happier if she hadn’t been so ambitious and power hungry, and had instead just accepted what she already had. Lady Macbeth’s character is thought provoking because she wants more power but in trying to achieve this, she becomes powerless. Initially, she is dominant in her marriage with Macbeth and she manipulates him to do what she wants for instance when she is persuading him to murder Duncan, she asks him “Art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valour, as thou art in desire? ” we can see that she can easily control Macbeth at this point.
She seems braver than Macbeth, for instance when she reassures him that their plan to kill Duncan will not fail “We fail? But screw you courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail. ” As the play progresses, we see that even though she is queen, she becomes less powerful because she is haunted by her actions and because Macbeth stops confiding in her. This begins when Macbeth doesn’t tell her of his plan to kill Banquo “Be innocent of knowledge dearest chuck, till thou applaud the deed. ” It is interesting that as she becomes more guilt ridden and begins to sleepwalk, she stops speaking in iambic pentameter.
By the end of the play, before she dies, she even loses the power of speech. This is unusual because most of the characters who die in Macbeth, in fact most of the characters who die in Shakespeare at least get the privilege of dying eloquently. This is thought provoking because of the irony of the fact that she wanted more power but ended up being desolate, haunted by grief and utterly powerless. Lady Macbeth is also particularly thought provoking because of the conflict in her character between femininity and masculinity and her favour of ambition and ruthlessness which goes against preconceptions from Shakespearean times about women.
At the beginning of the play she appears strong, cunning and ambitious for instance when she chastises Macbeth for being scared of Duncan’s body “infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures. ‘tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil. ” She, unlike Macbeth, is able to “look th’innocent flower but be the serpent under’t. ” As the play progresses her character transforms into the fragile, grief stricken woman that we see in the scenes before her death. At this point, she has no control over Macbeth any more, and he keeps killing, for almost no reason.
Her character has become only a shadow of the strong, courageous woman we saw at the beginning of the play. She never expected Macbeth to continue killing after the murder of Duncan, and she realizes that this isn’t what she wanted at the beginning of the play “Nought’s had; all’s spent, where our desire is got without content; ‘tis safer to be that which we destroy than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy. ” This transformation of her character makes us wonder about whether people in real life actually develop more of a conscience because of their actions, like Lady Macbeth, or do they develop a taste for power like Macbeth.
I found Lady Macbeth thought provoking because of how her character transforms from a cunning and strong woman, ambitious for her husband to a desolate, powerless character, haunted by guilt because of her actions. She deceives herself into thinking that she will not be affected emotionally by the murder of Duncan, but she is plagued by her guilt, and eventually commits suicide. Lady Macbeth shows us that we should be wary of getting our hearts desires. In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it. – Oscar Wilde