Lady Macbeth Character Analysis


Lady Macbeth’s dark and violent images suggest that she is under the influence of the supernatural and that she is being controlled and has no free will. This would mean that she has not got a huge role in the murder, but rather the supernatural is controlling Macbeth through Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth describes a ghastly image ‘have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed his brains out.’ The violence of dashing a baby’s brains out is an evil image, that shows she has no femininity and no motherly instinct. In Jacobean England, a woman’s role in society was raising children and caring for them. The women who did not know their place was likely to be prosecuted as unnatural, for example, witches. Through the use of this violent image, the audience would believe that Lady Macbeth was under the control of the supernatural and that she was not herself. In Act 1, Scene 5, Lady Macbeth states ‘come you spirits, unsex me here’. The image of the baby suggests that the spirits had taken control, and ‘unsexed’ Lady Macbeth, leaving her violent, cold, heartless, and no longer feminine.  Lady Macbeth also talks about ‘how tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me’, which could link to Act 1, Scene 5, where she tells the spirits to ‘come to my woman’s breast and take my milk for gall.’ This implies that Lady Macbeth’s femininity has been poisoned, and killed, leaving her as masculine and having no love or compassion. This further suggests that the spirits have acted according to Lady Macbeth’s wishes, which could explain why Lady Macbeth is so cold-hearted and ruthless. If this were true, then Lady Macbeth would not be in control of her actions, instead, the spirits would be controlling her, making her character not be to blame for the death of King Duncan, as she would have no free will.  She would have just passed the commands from the spirits onto Macbeth, who had no idea what Lady Macbeth had requested of the spirits. In Jacobean England, women who did not follow the gender stereotypes were supposedly witches. They also believed that witches were in contact with the devil and had a widespread and deeply held belief in the supernatural and feared it greatly. King James I himself was also afraid of the supernatural and believed that demons and witches were behind the Gunpowder Plot in November of 1605.  Macbeth was written soon after the Gunpowder Plot, and so James I would have been for Lady Macbeth being controlled by the Supernatural, as it would have been very believable at the time. Whilst a Jacobean audience would easily believe Lady Macbeth as being under the control of evil spirits, nowadays, the idea of the supernatural is less widespread, and most people do not believe in it, making a modern audience see Lady Macbeth be in complete control of her actions and have no reason to be innocent. A Jacobean audience would therefore be more likely to have some form of sympathy for Lady Macbeth, as opposed to a modern audience who would just see her as a cold-hearted and evil character.

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