The role of Lady Macbeth has made many actresses famous. Why do you suppose the role is so sought after?

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pcallovi eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The role is full of passion and ambiguity, and it can very well illustrate the craft of a natural born actor. The cruelty is mingled with undying love for her husband; her infinite ambition and ruthlessness are softened by the final madness. In such extremes, an actor can show a full array of subtleties and emotions. She is very intelligent and strong-willed, more than her husband in fact, and she does not have children, which makes her quite unusual as a woman and a wife. She is both a persecutor and a victim: this tragic tension makes her memorable - even if she only has comparatively few lines - and the reading or theatre public is drawn to remember the actor that plays her well.
wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare had a habit of personifying virtues and vices in certain characters.  For instance, Iago is an embodiment of jealousy; Lady Macbeth is seen by many scholars as an embodiment of ambition, the personification of Macbeth's weakness.  Actresses precipitate toward characters whose function in a play is the acting out of the driving motive, because there is so much texture to contribute in such roles.  Without reducing the motive to oversimple gender conflicts, an actress wants something more than a female social role to work with.  In other words, Lady Macbeth is not just the wife of the protaganist -- she is the personification of the play's theme.

jesseravenclaw | Student

Macbeth is a riveting play, with its universal themes, captivating characters and dialogue. Shame it has yet to transcend its magic onto the big screen (film). The film version Polanski directed may have had box office appeal in its day, with it's playboy funders, and Horror fans, but when I watched it a few years ago on DVD, the only appeal it had for me was to laugh at the absurdity of Polanski's interpretation of the play.

Some uncomfortable clunkers I remember are:  the scene with where Macbeth is imagining the dagger-which is purely in his mind, as we all know, but Polanski is more interested in showing off the lastest special effect –of the day (very outdated now). We see a dagger literally hangin above Macbeth. Like a demonic halo, it hovers around his head, leading him. Not quite where, but not quite what I was hoping for.

Where is Macbeth's imagination one has to ask, oh, it's up there in the air. I laughed. And laughed. Wait. Polanski doesn't stop there. He is all about showing everything, leaving little to the imagination, showing lots of nudity, murder- the lot. Where is the subtlety?

The actors,who I cannot remember, failed to excite or maintain my interest either. They did however, come across as one dimensional, and struggling to grasp the characters. I felt sorry for them.

That is just my perspective of the film. There are have been other attempts to bring it to the big screen, such as the Australian version Crime, Thriller released in 2006.

I would be interested to hear if anyone has seen Orson Well's adaptation? I think he was hugely talented as a director, Citizen Kane is a testimony to that.

Back to your question, I suspect any serious actor would be attracted to to Lady Macbeth. It is a role where the female embodies the premise of the play: ruthless ambition leads to its own destruction. She is as Wordprof put it not just the wife of the protaganist--she is the personification of the the play's theme.

If you want to see a version of Macbeth filled with masterful acting, with two of the world's finest stage actors: watch Ian MacKellen and Judi Dench in Philip Casson's 1979 tv film version of Macbeth. You can buy it on DVD.  You will be captivated.





It is a popular role because of the portrayal of Lady Macbeth as a woman in power. She had enormous influence over Macbeth, and when she died, it was truly incredible the lengths she went to to have her husband crowned king. It appeals to many people because of the entire story of Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth's enormous roole throughout the film too.  People find they are better at playing a villain in a play than a hero.  THe scene in which she hallucinates the spot on her hand is also very evocative and fun to play. It is a good role for someone wanting to become famous in a short period of time, because of all the conflicting motions people feel towards her. Shakespeare in general can make you very popular. Lady Macbeth's role is a first step to fame.  Actresses especially enjoy her passionate personality.

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