Lady Macbeth was a very strong and ambiguous woman, yet she was condemned for her ‘head disease’. She was too involved in power and she consequently lost her sanity. After ‘forcing’ her husband to kill multiple people in an attempt to climb the hierarchy, she ultimately took her life as the guilt overpowered her. This woman was pure evil; dark and twisted to her core. This woman was mad... very mad, and it’s easy to see. Welcome colleagues to the annual “Words and their worth” conference; a session in which we will analyse and evaluate our favourite Shakespearian characters. We will also evaluate the Elizabethan and contemporary views of their actions as well as social, political and cultural contexts.
So ... Lady Macbeth was a righteous terror, instilling fear upon those around her due to her insanity. Well, that’s what Shakespeare has made us believe. While Lady Macbeth, from the famous play ‘Macbeth’ clearly appears as a mentally depraved inhuman creature, a deeper understanding of the social and political contexts of the Elizabethan Era are required, providing different views. Despite her kind nature at the start of the play, Lady Macbeth is perceived by many as being the Fourth Witch, marrying Macbeth and planning the murders to climb the hierarchy.
If you think that Volumnia, from Coriolanus or Cleopatra from Antony and Cleopatra were mad, then you mustn’t have heard of Lady Macbeth. She is one of the maddest of Shakespeare’s women, but who was she?
Lady Macbeth was one of Shakespeare’s most famous and revolutionary female characters. When she is first seen in the play, she is in the process of planning King Duncan’s murder already, and she is seen to be stronger and more ambitious than her husband. At one stage, she summons spirits in attempt to unsex her “Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here” (1.5.42-43), as she believes that her husband isn’t manly enough to fulfil the deed.
The relationships between power, gender and insanity are key points for Lady Macbeth’s character; where her husband implies that she is indeed a masculine soul inhibiting a female body, thus linking violence and ambition to masculinity. Shakespeare has used Lady Macbeth and the Three Witches throughout the play to undercut Macbeths idea that ‘undaunted mettle should compose / nothing but males” (1.7.73-74). These women use female methods of achieving power as opposed to masculine methods. The play implies that women can be as ambitions (or even more) than men, yet their social constraints deny them any means to pursue these ambitions.
Lady Macbeth uses her powers to manipulate her husband, overriding his numerous objections to murder, and when he hesitates, she questions his masculinity until he feels that it is his role to commit the murder and prove himself to her. She uses her powers of manipulation to conveniently place any effects of the murders onto Macbeth, showing how cruel she really was. Her ambition was so strong that she manipulated her husband, her lover, into committing murder, consequently resulting in his disastrous downfall. Lady Macbeth’s further manipulation of her husband is clearly seen in Act I, Scene VII, where King Duncan arrives at their castle. Once Duncan arrives, Macbeth immediately loses interest in the plan to murder him. Unable and unwilling to suppress his clear sense of moral, Macbeth plainly states that what they have been planning is wrong. He expresses his second thoughts about the murder as soon as Lady Macbeth enters the room, stating purely, “We will proceed no further in this business” (l.31). Lady Macbeth, however, is unable to suppress her committed to follow through with their deadly plan. Without delay or mincing words, she makes it known that Macbeth