How does Lady Macbeth ignite her partner's thought process?Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of Shakespeare's most frightening female characters, Lady Macbeth is manipulative and heartless in her ambition.  She stirs her husband to action and to confidence as she ignites his power of fantasy which leads to what Harold Bloom terms "a tragedy of the imagination." Bloom goes on to say that Macbeth has a "proleptic imagination" of which he is scarcely conscious of an ambition or desire before he see himself as having already performed the crime.  It is Lady Macbeth who precipitates this perception of Macbeth.

  • In the first act, Lady Macbeth promises to help him with the fulfillment of the prophesies of the witches,

...Hie thee hither,

That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,

And chastise with the valor of my tongue

All that impedes thee from the golden round

Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem

To have thee crowned withal. (1.5.25-30)

  • She challenges Macbeth's manhood in order to spur him to murdering King Duncan:

                  What beast was 't then

That made you break this enterprise to Me?

When you durst do it, then you were a man;

And to be more than what you were, you would

Be so much more the man... (1.7.54-58)

Later, in Act III when Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo, Lady Macbeth spurs his thoughts with her challenge to him "Are you a man?" (3.4.59)

  • She directs the time and method of Duncan's murder
  • She assures him  that he has no cause for fear after the murder, telling Macbeth, "A little water clears us of this deed" (2.2.85) 
  • When, ironically, Lady Macbeth herself becomes consumed with guilt over their acts, her psychic decline affects Macbeth
  • After Lady Macbeth commits suicide, leaving Macbeth to feel that he is set in a "cosmological emptiness," she ignites his thoughts so that instead of an elegy for Queen Macbeth, he speaks of a nihilistic death march, a strutting of fools in a universe of victims.

mmacbeth lacks will - she is pure will

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