How does Shakespeare present Lady Macbeth in Act 1 ?

Lady Macbeth is arguably one of Shakespeare¶s most evil characters. She is ambitious, manipulative, calculating and deceiving. She is a powerful character who uses negative language and has an overpowering presence on stage. In Shakespeare¶s Era, women were not expected to have an opinion, they were regarded as their husband¶s possession, unequal and inferior to men. The stereotypical Elizabethan woman was expected to be innocent, gentle and dutiful. However, Lady Macbeth goes against this stereotype and is very outspoken. She acts as a catalyst, speeding up Macbeth¶s evildoings and persuading him to kill King Duncan. She personifies evil, an important theme throughout the play. In Act 1, Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as a very ambitious, manipulative woman. We first meet her in Act one, Scene 5, when she is alone, reading a letter from her husband. The letter describes Macbeth¶s meeting with the µweird sisters¶ and their supernatural predictions given to him µby the perfectest report¶. When Lady Macbeth learns that two of the predictions have already come true, she believes that Macbeth will become king, and she realises her ambition to become queen. However, the current King Duncan is still alive and Lady Macbeth wants Macbeth to kill him, but, she fears that Macbeth is too honourable to kill Duncan; µ Yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o¶ th¶ milk of human kindness¶ ±a symbol of innocence. Elizabethans believed in witchcraft and the supernatural. People believed that witches had great powers such as the ability to change the weather and predict the future and they were regarded as unnatural and evil. People believed in the natural order in society, which should not be interfered with, as it was considered a sin. Lady Macbeth goes against the natural order. There is a lot of religious imagery in the play to remind the audience of the Christian Elizabethan beliefs and damnation would result if anyone challenged these beliefs. In his letter Macbeth refers to Lady Macbeth as, µMy dearest partner in greatness¶ ± which suggests that there was equality in their relationship, which would surprise the audience and it shows that Macbeth trusted his wife. When Lady Macbeth learns of Duncan¶s visit, we see her ambition and wickedness grow and flourish. In her soliloquy, her dark and unnatural language would shock the audience. She asks the spirits to µ unsex me here. And fill me from the crown to the toe topfull, Of direst cruelty¶. She is calling on evil spirits to take away her womanly qualities and replace them with evil. She is very arrogant here and thinks that she can command and control the evil spirits. She is dominant and more ambitious than it was thought right for a woman to be, and wishes to be pitiless and iron-willed. She calls on the aid of magic powers, which is associated with witches, and uses it to wish her breasts full of poison, rather than breastfeeding or nurturing a baby like typical women of this time. She also wishes to be at one with µmurd¶ring ministers¶ ± which is a harsh alliteration, showing Lady Macbeth¶ ambition and anger. The tone of this soliloquy is set at the beginning, µThe raven himself is hoarse¶; as the raven is an omen of bad luck and is an image of death. At the end of the speech, the murderer¶s knife is visible to Lady Macbeth and she wants night to arrive so she can get on with her deed. With the force of words and will-power, Shakespeare has created a

he would do this for her. She uses emotional blackmail. Scene 5. saying that if he loved her. which adds to the drama and the evil atmosphere. Lady Macbeth tries to inspire her husband to kill and tries to persuade him. It shows Lady Macbeths true evil character. The castle is a gloomy. a weak coward. saying that he is saying things he does not mean. But the audience would be aware of the evil plans from Lady Macbeth and what was going to happen. This ignorant present. She speeds up the pace of the place and persuades her . µThis night¶s great business into my dispatch¶. Macbeth into killing King Duncan. which could mean murder. When King Duncan arrives at the castle. She accuses him of cowardice and a lack of manliness. This is very violent and unnatural. She welcomes Duncan. She tells Macbeth to deceive King Duncan and hide all real thoughts: µLook like the innocent flower but be the serpent under¶t´. In a horrifying image she says that she would kill her own child rather than break a promise. but also reveals her scheming nature. Lady Macbeth is constantly trying to strengthen Macbeths¶ resolve. She accuses him of being a drunk. She dominates Macbeth. telling him to pull yourself together. Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?¶. In scene 7. She compares Macbeth to the proverb µCat wants to eat fish. Lady Macbeth has planned the deed. harbours dark desires. Lady Macbeth greets her husband addressing him as Thane of Cawdor. She is presented as a very powerful force. excited. showing the intensity of her desire for her husband to take the throne. She is concerned with the practicality of the plan. µLeave all the rest to me¶. She is taunting and goading Macbeth. µScrew your courage to the sticking-place. cunning and taking charge. dark and sinister place. The darkness is synonymous with evil. The act ends with Lady Macbeth telling Macbeth the plans for the murder of King Duncan. And we¶ll not fail¶. Lady Macbeth is motivating and encouraging her husband. The first time we see Lady Macbeth and Macbeth together is at the end of Act 1. She is calculating. but he won¶t get his paws wet¶ ± saying that Macbeth wants to be king. Lady Macbeth does not consider failure. µThe letters have transported me beyond. The roles in the relationship have swapped. She hides all traces of her plans and continues to flatter King Duncan. These double meanings show a power and theme of deception and to show us all that Lady Macbeth is cunning enough to realise that these words could help influence and frighten her husband. µWe will proceed no further in the business¶. She is behaving more like a man than Macbeth is. to their castle and speaks of obedience and loyalty but the audience would be aware of the irony. when in reality. The future in the instant¶. Lady Macbeth acts as the perfect hostess. µdashed its brains out¶. She calls him µpale¶. but is not prepared to kill Duncan. When Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth that he has decided that their evil plans should end and he doesn¶t want to ruin everything. Lady Macbeth¶s role is as a catalyst. we see him wandering the castle in agony and doubt. whereas Macbeth is more concerned with the morality. be strong and we will not on stage. Shakespeare uses many words that have double meaning such as. This shows that Lady Macbeth is ambitious. and now I feel. µWas the hope drunk.

Lady Macbeth is in a pitiful state. She has complete support from her husband and she was the dominant force in the relationship. a symbol of innocence and purity. She was not as strong as she first thought. My impression of Lady Macbeth is that she is a highly significant character in Macbeth. however. but was also ruthless and cunning.resembled. The audience can see her conscience is destroying her. Lady Macbeth¶s role in the play was to persuade her husband. and without.husband to murder King Duncan. who was malicious. ruthless and the key to Macbeth¶s success. He does not tell his wife and he is thinking and acting for himself. Macbeth would never have been successful. The dark is a symbol of evil and now Lady Macbeth has a guilty conscience and has to carry a candle. and she becomes a pitiful wreck because when Macbeth no longer supports her and she crumbles. I do not believe that Macbeth was a strong enough character to commit the murder by himself. I do think that Lady Macbeth is an evil character. Lady Macbeth¶s role diminishes and she is no longer the dominant partner in the relationship. I consider Lady Macbeth to be a highly significant character in the play. he may not have gone through with the murder. She started as a strong woman. My father as he slept¶. I do not think is totally evil. This shows her evil nature and now she has no compassion or guilt. he seems indifferent and emotionless as if she µsignified nothing¶. Shakespeare wants us to feel sympathy for Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth has probably committed suicide. She has many flaws. her role diminishes. However as the play progresses. Macbeth has Banquo and his son killed which shows that he is now more independent. In Act 5. µ. Lady Macbeth is also continually washing her hands because she believes she has blood on her hands which is ironic as earlier she told Macbeth µA little water clears us of this deed¶. When Macbeth has Duncan¶s blood on his hands she tells him. She appears to be not as evil as first thought to the audience. who was as equally ambitious as him. and without her. ambitious and ruthless. Lady Macbeth made the plan become reality. Her conscience gets the better of herself. When Macbeth is told about her death. the whole play could not have evolved. Without her. Lady Macbeth looks like an exhausted woman.. ambitious. However as the play continues. She cannot be totally evil and is destructive. µA little water clears us of this deed¶ ± She shrugs off the murder and believes that is the end of the deed and all of the evidence will be gone. She sleepwalks and carries a candle because she is frightened of the dark and cannot sleep which is ironic because she called on the dark earlier in the play. At the end of this play. He needed the overpowering support of his wife. She had to drink in order to keep her spirits up and she also would not kill Duncan herself because he looked like her father sleeping. She was an evil character. At the end of the play. . The last time we see Macbeth and Lady Macbeth together in Act 3. She also speaks in rambling prose which shows that she has lost her sanity. In my opinion.. and not as strong as they audience first thought.