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Macbeth - the Decline of Macbeth and His Wife.

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Macbeth - the Decline of Macbeth and His Wife.

Macbeth Essay

Explore the ways the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth develop throughout the play. Making reference to Shakespeare’s use of language and stagecraft, examine the ways the events of the play impact on them and their relationship.

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford upon Avon in 1564. One of the most influential writers of all time, still remembered today for his enigmatic plays. The zeitgeist of England in the 17th century did nothing but intensify his success. In an age of acute paranoia and a morbid fascination surrounding the supernatural, plays like ‘Macbeth’ were the forbidden fruit craved for by the public of that era. Also as feminism was yet to be invented ‘Macbeth’ was also controversial in relation to the character of Lady Macbeth, and her almost masculine temperament. In a time where men were the dominant gender, Lady M’s domineering character was intriguing. Shakespeare’s plays are grouped into three categories; histories, tragedies and comedies. Macbeth is ultimately a tragedy. He was thought to have written ‘The Scottish Play’ for King James I, who had a personal interest in witchcraft and the supernatural. In this essay I intend to explore Macbeth and Lady Macbeths fall from grace and the deterioration of their relationship throughout the play.

Right at the beginning of Act I we are confronted with three haggard women, Every detail of this scene urges our imagination to sense a confusion of the usual human order. Their curious paradoxes, ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ and the rhyme in which they speak. In the middle of this scene we are confronted with the startling line ‘There to meet with Macbeth…’

Yet in the very next scene Macbeth is portrayed as a vision of valour. Shakespeare has made the play more palatable by depicting these traits through the words of other characters, this device gives Macbeths character more validity. Even after the flourishing testimonial of his sergeant, our minds still hold the witches mention of his name.

The audience is in no way prepared for the character of Lady Macbeth. We learn about her through her powerful soliloquy, consequent to the reading of Macbeths letter. A manipulative and dangerously committed woman. She is ruthless. Salivating at the prospect of previously unimaginable power. Macbeths tendency to speculate and think round problems, a quality noted in scene three, is seen by his wife as a crucial weakness.. She believes he does not lack ambition, but he is squeamish about the methods to be used to achieve this ambition. The hardness necessary for an assassination must come from her. There is an element is Lady M ‘s attitude reminiscent of the witches; she talks of pouring her spirits in Macbeth’s ear like some kind of potion to alter his character and she invokes the spirits of evil to defeminise her, and, like Macbeth in scene three, she prays for darkness to hide her planned action. The chain of imperatives (‘come’ ’fill’ ‘etc.) gives her speech a special urgency and determination.

When discussing the murder of King Duncan. Macbeth allows himself to imagine the future beyond the murder in a way which Lady Macbeth forbids herself. Her main argument is that her husband has to prove his manhood by acting decisively. He knows there is another concept of man. ’I dare do all that may become a man, who dares do more is none.’ But he is dominated by a woman with such a steely resolution he cannot help but collapse and comply.

The first inclination of Macbeths decline is in Act II where he hallucinates, he sees a dagger before him. Obviously murder is on his mind. After his exclamation ‘I have done the deed .‘ His state of mind verges on the hysterical and extreme tension is communicated to us, so we are forced to participate in it by; The abrupt changes of direction in the speech, the interruptions, the sudden noises and questions, of the characters. We are trapped in Macbeths anguish and like his wife we struggle for control. We see the bloody daggers in Macbeths hands, and, when the knocking repeatedly sounds, we are held in the hysteria of Macbeth and are grateful to be lead off by the masterful Lady M.

In Act III, Macbeth has become the established king. We begin to see his more devious side, how elaborately he covers his tracks in the midst of murdering Banquo and how he lies to the murderers, exploiting their loyalty. These events trigger a pathetic development in the relationship of Macbeth and his wife. They feel similarly about the situation but are unable to share their thoughts, by now Macbeth has detached himself from his reliance on Lady M and pursues his own course. It is remarkable that in the middle of this scene he can ask his wife to act pleasantly to Banquo, when we know that on

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