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"Lady Macbeth is moved primarily by personal ambition and not by love for Macbeth or an...
Topic: Macbeth"Lady Macbeth is moved primarily by personal ambition and not by love for Macbeth or an unselfish desire to help him become king." Discuss in relation to Macbeth.
"Lady Macbeth is moved primarily by personal ambition and not by love for Macbeth or an unselfish desire to help him become king." Discuss in relation to Macbeth.
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High School Teacher
What an excellent question! I might have to use this one myself as I come to teach Macbeth this coming year. Well, I think we can conclude that the text gives us no clear indication that directly says that Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to kill Duncan out of her own ambition or because she loves him. Rather, we need to look closely at her soliloquies and infer her motives from what she says. A great place to start is Act I scene 5, which is when Lady Macbeth receives her husband's letter telling her about his meeting with the witches and the prophecies they gave him. What is particularly revealing about Lady Macbeth's response to this is how she regards her husband:
Glams thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promis'd--Yet do I fear thy nature:
It is too full o'th'milk of human kindness,
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it:
Note how the determination of Lady Macbeth is presented as she declares that Macbeth "shalt be" everything he has been promised. The way in which she assesses her husband's character as being "too full o'th'milk of human kindness" and without the "illness" that ambition, in her view, needs to be successful indicates that she is not encouraging Macbeth to kill Duncan out of love for him. If she did truly love him she would not regard his moral scruples as a personal failing, and she would want what was best for her husband. This leads us to conclude that Lady Macbeth is motivated by her own personal ambition to be Queen.
Posted by accessteacher on July 17, 2011 at 10:14 PM (Answer #3)
High School Teacher
Lady Macbeth is driven by personal ambition. She is not driven by love for her husband. Lady Macbeth is not supportive of Macbeth. She uses manipulation and control to influence Macbeth. In Act one, Scene seven, at one point, Macbeth has totally changed his mind and decides that they will proceed no further in the murder of King Duncan:
We will proceed no further in this business.
He has recently honored me, and I now have the
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which I want to enjoy for a bit longer, and
Not cast them aside so soon.
When Lady Macbeth hears this, she asks her husband if he is afraid. She does not support him in this decision. In fact, she comments that he is being a coward in that he desires to bask in the glory of being Thane of Cawdor:
Are you afraid
To be the same man in reality
As the one you wish to be? Would you have the crown
Which you believe to be the ornament of life,
And yet live like a coward in your own self-esteem?
Lady Macbeth ridicules Macbeth, asking him if he is afraid. She is using mind games hoping that Macbeth will change his mind and follow through with the murdering of King Duncan.
Clearly, Lady Macbeth has her own agenda. She continues to insult Macbeth, claiming that he is weak:
Weak of purpose!
Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
Are only like pictures. It is the eye of childhood
That’s afraid of a painted devil. If he bleeds,
I'll smear the faces of the grooms with it,
Because it must seem that they are guilty.
She goes in to King Duncan and smears her hands in his blood. Then she places the blood and daggers on the guards. She is by no means innocent in the bloody murder. Lady Macbeth even claims that she would have killed King Duncan herself had he not resembled her sleeping father:
If the King hadn’t resembled
My father as he slept, I would’ve done it. My husband!
When Macbeth shows signs of fear, Lady Macbeth continues to mock her husband. She is not supportive in his fears. She continues to tear down his manhood. She shows no understanding of his natural fear in the murdering of King Duncan. In Act one, Scene five, Lady Macbeth wishes and even prays to the spirits to make herself to be a man so she could commit the murder herself:
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! Make thick my blood,
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
Clearly, Lady Macbeth is not satisfied with being the wife of the Thane of Cawdor. She desires to be Queen of Scotland.
Posted by lsumner on July 17, 2011 at 10:29 PM (Answer #4)
High School Teacher
Following on from the thread above ... it is in this part of the play that the audience becomes more aware of the masculinity of Lady Macbeth. She desires increasing power and pushes her husband into killing King Duncan so that they can be crowned as King and Queen. She is unable to partake in the murder herself, because Duncan reminds her of her own father. Yet it is she who acts practically when Macbeth is troubled by sounds and later in the play it is Lady Macbeth who ushers the banqueting Lords away when he sees the ghost of Banquo.
Lady Macbeth is a woman who embodies the strength and ambition in the relationship. Yet she presents herself publicly as the dutiful wife. She occasionally demonstrates feminine traits, but on the whole Shakespeare chooses to carefully depict her as the strong female and some critics argue that she is like the fourth witch.
Arguably she manages to uphold her position until the point in the play where she too becomes troubled by her actions and at this point leaves Macbeth free to rule. Interestingly the relationship between the two is at his closest when the two are plotting to ahieve power and arguably this begins to wane from the moment that Macbeth is crowned King.
Nevertheless, Lady Macbeth plays a crucial part in the plot of the play and certainly portrays the darker side of woman. Perhaps Shakespeare was attempting to show just how powerful women could be?
Lady Macbeth is not the first unruly woman in the drama to be constrained or returned to her acceptable role. We see the three witches have overstepped their bounds when Hecate appears in 3.5 and chides them for their support of Macbeth, "... a wayward son, / Spiteful and wrathful, who, as others do, / Loves for his own ends, not for you" (11-13). Even the witches have an established hierarchy, and their prophecies can only be used for the benefit of an acceptable subject. Macbeth is not a good choice for the hearing of the prophecy, and the three sisters must now restore the balance they had disturbed. Their last prophecy to Macbeth, of course, leads him to the false sense of security when he believes he can never be harmed. When he listens to and heeds this prophecy, he and Lady Macbeth begin to switch roles in the drama. He becomes completely blind to any danger to himself, and Lady Macbeth changes from a murderer who philosophically states, "Things without all remedy / Should be without regard. What's done is done" (3.2.13-14) to a disturbed sleepwalker who paces futilely every night in search of enough water to cleanse her of her sins. Macbeth is stepping up to the role he wanted but was afraid to kill for, and Lady Macbeth's strength is no longer needed. A displaced person, she has no further role in the support of her husband and will revert to the more traditional feminine role. As he becomes stronger, she weakens, for two such blindly driven characters are not needed to rule. Finally, with her suicide, she removes herself from the stage completely, leaving her husband not to mourn her passing but to simply comment, "She should have died hereafter."
Posted by dalejo on July 17, 2011 at 10:40 PM (Answer #5)
High School Teacher
Shakespeare it seems had to rebalance the roles and so Lady Macbeth's downfall occurs quicker than Macbeth's, perhaps because she rebelled against her femininity? Macbeth has taken society's approval of state-sanctioned murder too far, to the extent of killing and supplanting the head of state, but his behaviour is an extension of appropriate masculine action for his military-minded world.
Lady Macbeth, however, has stepped completely outside the bounds of femininity and must be punished, even if it is by her own hand. More self-aware than Macbeth to the end, she does not wait for anyone else to end her unnatural existence--she does it willingly to herself, quietly and offstage. I always find it intriguing that Shakespeare chose to do this scene off stage, ** refer to the way in which the audience are given the information of her death and then question the importance of it? Surely it demonstrates how insignificant she is at this point in the play in comparison to the beginning before they obtain power?
Macbeth, on the other hand, determines not to surrender and not to fall upon his sword, for at the end his overconfidence blinds him to any possible danger, and he only completely understands his own doom when nature itself, in the form of a mobile Birnam Wood, and another man outside of nature yet willing to restore order, Macduff, takes his life away from him.
Posted by dalejo on July 17, 2011 at 10:43 PM (Answer #6)
High School Teacher
It is interesting that even in light of the fact that Macbeth is the tragic hero and primary villain in Shakespeare's play Macbeth, his wife is the galvanizing force behind his eventual promise to take Duncan's life. Even as he considers it, the valiant hero has second thoughts and tries to talk his wife out of the plan. However, her ambition is just as great as his—perhaps more so, for she wants to be queen and will insult her husband and push until he finally gives in. Rather than encouraging him, she insults his manhood and his bravery, and berates him. Though they speak lovingly to each other, she does not seem to share any soft feelings for him as she verbally attacks without hesitation.
Lady Macbeth knows her husband's character. She calls on the dark spirits to make her as tough as she needs to be to complete the task before her, for she fears that her husband is too nice—
Yet do I fear thy nature,
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way. (I.v.15-18)
She is afraid that Macbeth will not be able to find it in him to take the short cut to become king which requires that he kill Duncan—so she needs to be strong.
Lady Macbeth does not ever verbalize to her husband a desire to see him happily seated on the throne. More likely, when Macbeth shares his second thoughts with his wife about the murder, tells her that he wants to enjoy the rewards he has recently been reaping for a while, and put off the murder of the King, her first reaction would likely be resentment. He has everything he could possibly want, but she is still not queen. She wants the power and the status. This is completely about her, and has nothing to do with wanting what is best for her husband. For who he is at the beginning and what he has is the best thing for him.
Posted by booboosmoosh on September 6, 2011 at 4:31 PM (Answer #7)
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