Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is a character in William Shakespeare play "Macbeth". While based on the real-life Queen Gruoch of Scotland, both her character and the play's events are tied very weakly to actual history.

In the play

After her husband,Macbeth of Scotland, told her in a letter about his opportunity to become king, she tells herself that his temperament is "too full o' the milk of human kindness" (Act 1, Scene 5) for the necessary evil to kill the existing monarch, King Duncan, and so make this possible. In her eagerness, she calls for dark forces to "unsex" her and fill her with "direst cruelty." On his return, Macbeth defers deciding on the matter, but when the king has arrived, she ends his moral dilemma by manipulating him with clever arguments into committing the assassination. While Macbeth initially balks at the bloody tasks she insists that they are necessary to seize the throne; she wants him to leave everything to her and pull himself together, shocks him and questions his masculinity.

(Shortly after she makes Macbeth do "the deed", she admits, in an aside, that she could not have done it herself because the king has resembled her own father as he slept, implying that she too has at least some "milk of human kindness"). Lady Macbeth has arranged to frame Duncan's sleeping (and purposely drunken) guards for the murder by planting bloody daggers on them, and covering their faces and hands in Duncan's blood. Realising that a dazed Macbeth has brought the daggers with him after the murder, Lady Macbeth has to put them back. Early the next morning, upon hearing Macduff ask her husband why he has just killed King Duncan's grooms, she faints. It seems that her faint is a good tactic to keep anyone from asking any more questions, but it may be genuine, the result of realizing the enormity of the murder of a beloved king.

In the wake of the regicide, Macbeth is eventually appointed as the new king (as Duncan's two sons Malcom and Donalbain have escaped to England and Ireland, suspicious of Macbeth and fearing for their lives), but his marriage has changed, as well: Macbeth now does the planning and does not always fill her in on his actions, most notably when he has his best friend, Banquo, and his son, Fleance, murdered in order to keep the Scottish throne, Banquo himself having received the prediction that his children would be kings, although he would never sit on a throne. Banquo is successfully murdered but Fleance manages to escape the murderers. At the following royal banquet, the murderer tells Macbeth about it and Lady Macbeth feels it necessary to encourage her husband to be more attentive to their guests. Soon Macbeth sees, or at least imagines to see, the bloody ghost of Banquo. Terrified, his ensuing monologue nears being telltale of his crime, but Lady Macbeth steps in, scolds him, does what she can to dismiss his words as just a fit from which he has often suffered since his youth, and tells the guests to leave. After this scene, the audience loses sight of her for some time. She does not appear in Act 4 at all. In this Act, for instance, Macbeth becomes aware that Thane Macduff, who has fled to England to join Malcolm's opposing forces, poses a threat to him, and has Macduff's wife and children murdered. Nothing in the text suggests that Lady Macbeth has anything to do with this murder even directly- indeed, when Macbeth first contemplates the murder of Macduff in the last scene he shares with her, rather than goading him she changes the subject.

By the time she is seen again, Lady Macbeth's long-suppressed conscience has begun to plague her; she sleepwalks, haunted by visions of spots of Duncan's blood on her hands which she cannot wash off (in the famous [ "Out damn'd spot" speech"] ); the blood her husband has spilled largely at her instigation — tormented into madness by the guilt. She also seems to blame herself for the acts Macbeth commits alone — such as having Macduff's wife and son killed along with anyone else who bore the name Macduff — for her indirect responsibility, having pushed her husband to his state of tyranny. Just before the climactic battle between Macbeth and Macduff, she apparently commits suicide, though the play does not explicitly reveal the cause of her death. Her character's complexity makes her one of Shakespeare's most talked about female lead roles.

Memorable lines

* "Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty!
Come to my woman's breasts
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief. Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry, 'Hold, hold!' " (Act 1, Scene 5)

* Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both.
They have made themselves and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this. (Act 1, Scene 7)

* "These deeds must not be thought
After these ways; so, it will make us mad." (Act 2, Scene 2)

* "A little water clears us of this deed ." (Act 2, Scene 2)

* "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.
Things without all remedy
Should be without regard; what's done is done." (Act 3, Scene 2)

* "Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then 'tis time to do't. —Hell is murky. —Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?" (Act 5, Scene 1)

* "Here's the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh!" (Act 5, Scene 1)

* "Tis safer to be that which we destroy, than to dwell in doubtful joy."

* "To bed, to bed! there's knocking at the gate.
Come, come, come, come, give me your hand; what's done
Cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed!" (Act 5, Scene 1)

*"Are you not a man?"


Further reading

* [ Lady MacBeth and the Daemonologie of Hysteria]
* [ Some Character-Types Met with in Psycho-Analytic Work]
* [ Women's Fantasy of Manhood: A Shakespearian Theme]
*Female Gender roles

External links

* [ List of all appearances and all mentions of Lady Macbeth in the play.]

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