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

Lady Macbeth is presented as willing to support Macbeth in killing Duncan to benefit themselves in act 1, scene 5. She is presented as ruthless and persuasive in act 1, scene 7 when she convinces Macbeth to murder Duncan. In both scenes, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as intelligent and strong-willed. Browse famous quotes by Lady Macbeth.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Act 1, scene 5:

In this scene, Lady Macbeth first learns of the prophecy of the witches that Macbeth will become king. She is shown in this scene as carefully thinking through her role as a woman and wife. On the one hand, as a woman, she needs to be feminine, which in this period would have meant somewhat passive and subordinate to her husband. She also has a duty of loyalty to her husband and a duty to help her family and husband succeed. She is concerned that Macbeth has a weak character and will vacillate rather than seizing the moment and killing Duncan. Thus even though she knows that killing Duncan is morally wrong and that strength, determination, and persuading Macbeth to act are unfeminine, she also sees doing so as part of her duty to her husband and family, and so she steels herself to act.

Act 1, scene 7:

In this scene, the audience sees Lady Macbeth in dialogue with her husband. As she had anticipated, he is weak-willed and has scruples about killing Duncan. She berates him for his unmasculine weakness, in essence switching gender roles with him temporarily in order to strengthen his resolve. She ultimately persuades him to go ahead with the murder. This act of stepping outside her essential female nature is portrayed as unnatural and something that will lead to her ultimate mental disintegration. In both scenes, she is shown as intelligent and strong-willed.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In both scenes, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a nefarious, malevolent woman who is extremely ambitious and willing to become queen at all costs. She is depicted as a cruel, malicious individual who cunningly plans King Duncan's assassination and persuades her husband to follow through with the crime. Lady Macbeth shows no signs of remorse or sympathy in either scene and is portrayed as more of an ambitious, daring person than her husband.

In act 1, scene 5, Lady Macbeth reads her husband's letter regarding the witches' prophecy and reveals her ambitious, malevolent nature during her soliloquy. In Lady Macbeth's soliloquy, she urges wicked spirits to fill her with cruelty and make her callous, murderous, and evil. Lady Macbeth says,

Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark To cry “Hold, hold!" (Shakespeare, 1.5.40-44).

After asking for a cold, unforgiving, murderous heart, she instructs Macbeth to act friendly to the king while she takes care of planning the assassination.

In act 1, scene 7, Macbeth expresses his reluctance to follow through with the plan, and Lady Macbeth proceeds to ridicule her husband for being weak. She is portrayed as a treacherous, cruel woman who criticizes Macbeth for not being courageous and ambitious. After making Macbeth feel weak and feminine for not wanting to kill the king, Lady Macbeth confidently tells him their plan will not fail. She is sure that the Scottish lords will not discover that...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Macbeth murdered the king and dismisses the idea of being caught.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team