Is Lady Macbeth the driving force behind the murder of Duncan?I can not come to conclusion about  whether the witches, Lady Macbeth or Macbeth is the real driving force behind the murder of...

Is Lady Macbeth the driving force behind the murder of Duncan?

I can not come to conclusion about  whether the witches, Lady Macbeth or Macbeth is the real driving force behind the murder of Duncan. It is urgent.

Asked on by fadumeen

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

From the beginning of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," there is a perversion of gender roles:  The witches are bearded and Macbeth expresses confusion over whether they are male or female.  Critic Robert N. Watson states,

Shakespeare portrays Macbeth's crimes, from first to last, as costly violations of the procreative cycle.

The sexless witches stir a broth of eyes and other parts of animals used to enhance one's procreative prowess.  This suggestion of procreation then extends to the description of Scotland as the motherland and Macbeth, who "carved out his passage" (I,ii,19) as the heroic son.  And, it is King Duncan who receives Macbeth as a son, praising his valor:

Thy praises in his kingdom's greata defense,/And poured them down before him. (I,iii,98-99)

In Act I, Scene v, Macbeth writes of the prediction of the witches to Lady Macbeth, indicating that he is tempted by the preternatural world.  Lady Macbeth encourages Macbeth to kill Duncan, an act much like the mother urging her son to usurp the throne.  That this is somewhat Oedipal in nature has been propounded by many a critic.

Thus, all three of these forces contribute to the violations of the procreative cycle:  unnatural forces, a man who sees a "dagger" before him and an opportunity for rebirth as the new king that his wife, who "unsexes" herself and urges him as a perverse mother to kill the king so that her "son" can have the throne.

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

If we consider the stages leading to the murder of Duncan, we may take note of the following in the form of a sequence:

1. Macbeth nurtures an ambition to be the king, and envisions the murder of Duncan:'....why do I yield to that suggestion/Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair.....'

2. The witches hail Macbeth as Glamis, as Cawdor, and as 'that shalt be king hereafter'. Glamis becomes Cawdor very soon thereafter, and so the prophecy of future kingship seems so alluring. The witches may not have originally tempted Macbeth, but they have thus endorsed the evil in Macbeth.

3. The role of Lady Macbeth in the murder of Duncan can hardly be underrated. It is she who volunteers to 'chastise' her husband who is 'too full o' the milk of human kindness' with 'the valour' of her 'tongue'. She apostrophises to the dark forces of evil to fill her with cruelty and mischief so that she can work out the plan of killing Duncan.

But keeping this sequence in mind, we can not say that Lady Macbeth is the only driving force behind the murder. First, Macbeth was tempted by his own ambition to kill Duncan. Then the witches endorsed the temptation. Thereafter, Macbeth wrote a letter to Lady Macbeth to inform her of the witches' prophecies and 'what greatness is promised thee'. Only after all this we find Lady Macbeth on the scene.

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