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Lady Macbeth is often hailed as the source of all evil in Macbeth,though she never...

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mishi979 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted July 14, 2011 at 9:27 PM via web

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Lady Macbeth is often hailed as the source of all evil in Macbeth,though she never talks about her own gain. Comment on the portrayal of Lady Macbeth.

The discussion on the portrayal of Lady Macbeth must be done in the light of the above statement.

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 14, 2011 at 10:03 PM (Answer #2)

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In the first act when Lady Macbeth receives the letter from her husband telling her of the witches' claim, Lady Macbeth thinks that Macbeth is "too full 'o the milk of human kindness" to go after his ambitions.  She knows that her husband wants to reap the benefits to becoming king, but she fears that he will not go to all ends to make it a reality.  So, she decides to plot the murder of King Duncan so that Macbeth can become the next king and by default, she the queen.  She does not speak of her own gain in this mission; consider the social and historical context of the play--women did not hold positions of power, so Lady Macbeth lives through the gains of her husband.  She understands her "place" in their society, and at one point she wants the gods to "unsex" her so that she can have a masculine bravery strong enough to go through with the murder.  Lady Macbeth is portrayed as evil, but she is more like a symbol for the evil that resides in Macbeth.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 19, 2011 at 2:36 PM (Answer #3)

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I agree with the idea in the first post that Lady Macbeth could not have hoped for power of her own and that is why she is not portrayed as talking about such power.  However, I would argue that she is portrayed as evil because she goes outside the bounds of what is acceptable for her sex.  She is evil not because she wants power for herself, but because her attitudes are not "womanly."  She dominates her husband in some ways and she pushes him to act in ways he might not otherwise want to.  She is excessively pushy and aggressive for a woman of her time and place.  Since she goes against societal norms, she is seen as evil.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 24, 2011 at 8:29 AM (Answer #4)

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I would argue that while Lady Macbeth does hope to gain from her husband's ascension to power, she also has a hardened conscience--and that has little to do with her gender. When Macbeth is horrified by the figurative and literal blood on his hands, his wife tells him to simply wash it off, that water will take care of it. It's true that she was unable to commit the crime herself at the last moment and has an apparent attack of conscience later; however, for this moment of crisis when life meets death, she is cold-hearted and careless. She does not value life and she does not suffer any pangs of conscience. That is evil in a person of any gender.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 24, 2011 at 1:11 PM (Answer #5)

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While Lady Macbeth is given to evil deeds, she is not "the source of evil."  The source of evil is in the predictions of the three sisters and in the heart of Macbeth who finds reason to believe them.  Lady Macbeth actually loves her husband.  For, when he talks of the predicitions, she tries to help them along, when he starts to rant about Banquo's ghost, she "explains" his behavior to their guests.  She even assumes the burden of guilt for all of Macbeth's crimes. 

Lady Macbeth may not exactly be a Girl Scout, but she is a loyal wife.  When she dies, Macbeth is dismayed, and he mourns her greatly, regretting his evilness.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 27, 2011 at 1:01 AM (Answer #6)

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Lady Macbeth gains when Macbeth gains.  I don't see her as evil.  I think she is trying to make the most of a difficult situation.  Like most of the monarchs in Shakespeare's plays, there are some serious issues in the kingdom that have to be dealt with one way or another.

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mahmood786 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted July 27, 2011 at 2:53 AM (Answer #7)

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the sourve of evil is neither Lady MacBeth nor the witches , these are just the dramatization or incarnation of the wishes and the burning desires going on inside Macbeth.

so we can say that Lady Macbeth just "whetted his hidden motives " she just guided the nightmarish thought towards the morning sun.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 28, 2011 at 11:55 PM (Answer #8)

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Shakespeare's outstanding portrayal of the character of Lady Macbeth has yielded the most spectacular villain in literature.  The reason why she is, in fact, this villain is for the reason that you mention above:  "she never talks about her own gain."  It is through her sheer devilish nature that she is able to convince Macbeth to gain the crown through murder (not to mention the fact that she asks evil spirits to "unsex me here," yeah, that'll do it).  There isn't a thing that I don't love about Shakespeare's depiction, ... except to say that I would have liked to have seen MORE of her.  In addition, I think there isn't enough attention paid to the fact that Lady Macbeth did, even in her death, commit the ultimate mortal sin:  suicide.

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