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In Macbeth, what is the gentlewoman’s role for Lady Macbeth?How does the gentlewoman...

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kate2010 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 23, 2010 at 5:04 PM via web

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In Macbeth, what is the gentlewoman’s role for Lady Macbeth?

How does the gentlewoman feel about Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking and how she feels about the thing she thinks Lady Macbeth has done earlier in the play ?

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 23, 2010 at 8:15 PM (Answer #1)

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In Act 5, sc. 1, Lady Macbeth's gentlewoman (personal maid) speaks to the doctor about Lady Macbeth and what she's been doing and saying.  The gentlewoman is concerned and nervous because she has heard Lady Macbeth say things that essentially amount to a confession of Macbeth's and her wrong-doing.  When the doctor asks her what she's heard Lady Macbeth say (ll. 9-13), she responds, "That, sir, which I will not report after her."  When the doctor urges her further, she again responds, "Neither to you, nor to anyone, having no witness to confirm my speech." First, she is loyal to Lady Macbeth because she is Lady Macbeth's personal handmaiden; she is the one who looks after every personal need the queen has and she is with her constantly.  Second, the gentlewoman knows that to repeat, or gossip, about what she has heard could be conceived as treasonous and punishable by death.  Since there was no one else present to hear and back up any allegations the gentlewoman might make, it would be her word against the queen's word.  The gentlewoman probably fears somewhat for her own life because of what she has heard.  She knows that Macbeth killed Duncan and that Macbeth had Banquo and the members of the Macduff household killed.  Having this knowledge makes her a target, now.  Banquo was killed, in part, because of his suspicions of Macbeth's part in Duncan's death, so it is reasonable that the gentlewoman should now fear for her life because of what she knows.  Also, the gentlewoman tells the doctor that she believes Lady Macbeth has been driven to madness because of her guilt.  The gentlewoman says, "I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the dignity of the whole body," (ll. 53-54). This means that even if it meant being queen, she would not want to carry the heavy burden of guilt that Lady Macbeth carries.

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