The Power of Manipulation
The Bible effected government, military, and business; moreover, it also had a strong influence on literature. The Bible is the most known manuscript to man, particularly for the story of Adam and Eve. This story is the literary precedent that introduced the idea of evil women manipulating men in literature, and since that time, this idea created in The Bible, has been used in plays such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the three witches manipulate Macbeth in order to gain power in society. The use of female characters to control Macbeth follows the literary precedent in that women’s villainy lies in their manipulation of otherwise good men. Macbeth’s weakness and inability to perform violent acts, Hecate’s control through witchery, and Lady Macbeth’s wish to be unsexed all demonstrate Shakespeare’s use of the predetermined standard of women in literature and how they manipulate men.
Macbeth is declared a war hero early on in the play, which causes the audience to become attached to him and root for his success. As the action progresses, it is revealed that he is very ambitious, but also very emotional and passive when out of battle, which are typical stereotypes of women. When Macbeth learns that he is destined to become king of Scotland, he knows that he must kill Graham 2
King Duncan in order to take the throne. However, knowing the crime that he must commit, Macbeth becomes unstable and tells his wife, “We will proceed no further in this business. / He hath honored me of late, and I have bought / Golden opinions from all sorts of people,” (I.vii.32-34). Macbeth is too sensitive to proceed with his plan to murder Duncan. Using the literary precedent in The Bible, Shakespeare shows Lady Macbeth’s villainy through her coaxing Macbeth to murder Duncan. She tricks her husband to do as she says by telling him he must keep the promise that he made earlier. Because Macbeth has a strong ambition and desire for masculinity, Lady Macbeth knows that threatening him of his manliness will convince him to follow through with the murder. In the story of Adam and Eve, Eve convinces Adam to eat the fruit and then they both must suffer the consequences from God. In order to coax Adam to eat the fruit Eve must use manipulation and evil. Lady Macbeth manipulating Macbeth to kill Duncan parallels Eve convincing Adam to eat the fruit. Therefore, in both situations it is the woman who is responsible for the man committing a crime. This connection between the stories demonstrates how Shakespeare directly used the literary precedent of women deceiving men through manipulation. When God question’s Adam and Eve about their sin of eating the fruit, Adam tells God that it was Eve who is at fault because she convinced him to eat the fruit and caused the trouble. Macbeth’s hesitation about the murder suggests to the audience that men are not capable of committing murder unless evil, but in this case Lady Macbeth, convinces them to carry out the plan, which relates to Adam throwing the responsibility of the sin on Eve. His decision to blame Eve for causing Graham 3 him to eat to fruit and be punished by God sets to precedent in which Macbeth’s hesitation comes from. Eve convincing Adam to eat the fruit and Lady Macbeth convincing Macbeth to kill Duncan it is shown that men are not responsible for crime because women manipulate them to sin.
The three witches are responsible for implanting the idea of becoming king into Macbeth’s mind, and therefore, the tragedy that follows. However, the leader of the weird sisters is Hecate, an evil witch who controls all the witches. She is the primary culprit of the tragedy because she gives orders to the three witches. As the witches work on a spell that will help them further manipulate Macbeth, Hecate tells them, “I commend your pains, / And now everyone shall share i’ th’ gains,” (IV.i.39-40). The leader of the