In Shakespeare's Macbeth, how is Lady Macbeth presented in Act 1 scene 5, and Act 1 scene 7?

Expert Answers
gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth appears as nothing less than monstrous in these scenes. Scene 5 features her soliloquy in which she begins planning the murder of Duncan and invokes all manner of evil spirits for the purpose. In Scene 7, she appears equally ruthless, urging her husband on to commit the murder. He is not entirely willing, but she jeers at him for being weak and declares that she herself would be quite prepared to kill her own baby if required.

In both scenes, Lady Macbeth comes across as not just wicked but grotesque, as she deliberately renounces humane traits like kindliness and mercy and all her own supposedly softer, womanly qualities, conjuring up a frightening picture of herself as filled 'from the crown to the toe top-full/of direst cruelty' (40-41)  and with breasts full of 'gall' (46). She follows this up with the even grimmer image in Scene 7 of herself dashing out her baby's brains.

Lady Macbeth, then, appears as an utterly pitiless, scheming villain at this early stage, prior to the murder of Duncan. However, over the course of the play, this picture of her is not quite borne out. After the murder of Duncan she gradually becomes unhinged with remorse, as her famous sleepwalking scene, when she desperately tries to wash her hands free of blood, attests. In the end, she is not really fitted for such villainy. Although she appears so evil in the scenes discussed above, what she is really doing is trying to work herself up to the pitch of committing murder, to psyche herself up for the dreadful task. It doesn't really come naturally to her. 

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act I, scene V, Lady Macbeth is presented as an ambitious woman with a powerful hold over her husband. When she receives the news of the prophecies from Macbeth, for example, she notes that he is too full of "kindness" to carry out the murder of King Duncan. She says that she will "pour" her "spirits" into his ear in order to give him the courage he needs to make the prophecy come true.

Similarly, in scene VII, her sense of ambition is further reinforced. It is she who encourages Macbeth to overcome his doubts about murdering Duncan. In fact, she even plans the murder itself, giving Macbeth clear directions about how they must go about it to ensure that nobody suspects foul play.

In both of these scenes, Lady Macbeth is presented in a negative light. She is portrayed as ambitious, ruthless, and conniving. More importantly, it is her influence which contributes to Macbeth's transformation from loyal thane to ambitious, cold-blooded murderer.