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Lady Macbeth's Character - Women in 17th CenturyConsidering how women were treated in...

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powervolume | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 17, 2009 at 8:13 AM via web

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Lady Macbeth's Character - Women in 17th Century

Considering how women were treated in the 17th century, it's surprising that Lady Macbeth was such a strong character and also the way she spoke to Macbeth was surprising. Why do you think Shakespeare chose to portray her character like this?

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted August 17, 2009 at 8:36 AM (Answer #2)

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Women were long viewed as sources of temptation and evil in western European literature, so it is no surprise that Shakespeare would have his protagonist egged on by an ambitious, sociopathic wife. Providing Lady Macbeth as a sort of foil for Macbeth also helps to build the audience’s sympathy for Macbeth; how difficult it must be to ignore the prophecy of the Witches (also female temptresses, although not physically so) when one has a nagging wife at home pushing for action. Lady Macbeth is more of a one-dimensional character than her husband, seemingly ruled by her own ambition until she descends into guilt-induced madness.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 17, 2009 at 9:26 AM (Answer #3)

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I liked the previous post's analysis.  I think the last part is very powerful in terms of the exploration of the facade of strength.  Lady Macbeth is depicted as the embodiment of strength and ambition to start the play, but as the drama develops we begin to see her mentally devolve.  Perhaps, a statement about strength is being made that individuals who are strong must follow through on its commitments in all forms.  Having to deal with a facade of strength invariably leads to weakness and frailty.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 17, 2009 at 12:14 PM (Answer #4)

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To continue the discussion with post #2, perhaps the true definition of "strength" of character is to be man (or woman) enough to admit when we've done wrong.  The very fact that Lady Macbeth was isolated from friends, her husband--all but servants whom she couldn't trust--has pushed her over the edge.  She has no one to confide in, no one to look to for encouragement as Macbeth did.  Unable to prop herself up on others affirmations helps her devolve more quickly than perhaps she would've had she not been shut out of her husband's company and attentions.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 21, 2009 at 9:32 PM (Answer #5)

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Perhaps Shakespeare was aware of how many ambitious women urge their husbands to rise in power.  Women "behind the scenes" are often the fulcrum for men's ambitions.  As such they can be a detrimental force to a man's conscience.  It is interesting, then, that Lady Macbeth becomes much more human after she goes insane.  There is something to be said for guilt, is there not?

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