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Analysis of Two Very Different Sides of Lady Macbeth Character

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In the play “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare, the audience sees two very different sides to Lady Macbeth. The first time we see her in Act 1 Scene 5 she is portrayed by Shakespeare to be a ruthless, brutal and remorseless character. Macduff’s judgement of Lady Macbeth being a “fiend-like queen”’ conveys an image of a wicked and cruel person. When we first see her, she is delivering an evil soliloquy which portrays her corrupt and villainous lust for power. After reading the letter from her husband, she truly believes that she will become queen after reading about Macbeth’s meeting with the witches and the prophecy’s which they had told him. Shakespeare wrote “Macbeth” in 1606 and in the 1600s people believed in witches and so Macbeth’s meeting with the witches would have been believable. James I became King of England in 1603 having formerly been James VI of Scotland and is believed to have been superstitious about witches. He was convinced that a group of witches were plotting his death and even before that he had played an active role in the North Berwick witch trials in 1590, which meant that dozens of people who were on witchcraft charges were led to their death. This ultimately led to his writing of the book Daemonologie in 1597.

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Shakespeare strongly presents Lady Macbeth as a ‘fiend-like’ and evil character in Act One, Scene 5, as he exposes her unnatural feminine desires to turn dehumanised state by the evil, supernatural powers. In Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy in Act One, Scene 5, she expresses her ruthless craving for the “spirits” to “unsex” her which suggests that she wants to be stripped of her feminine weakness and instead be replaced by “direst cruelty” which she feels will enable her to fulfil these unnatural and completely unfeminine desires. Notably, throughout the scene, Shakespeare appears to associate Lady Macbeth more dominantly with the three witches and the supernatural which in some ways could class her as fourth witch.

 In the 1600’s Lady Macbeth’s asking for evil “spirits” to help her carry out her plan, would possibly have invoked ideas of witchcraft which were very prominent at the time. Earlier in the scene, she exclaims her disgust and fear of Macbeth’s weak nature, expressing that “it is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” which implies that she thinks that Macbeth is too nice to be able to murder Duncan and she appears to take it upon herself to persuade him into it. Shakespeare presents to the audience here, that the determination to commit the assassination of Duncan comes from her, presenting her as an evil and wicked person who has been ruined by the possibility of royalty and all of the splendours that come with it which consequently agrees with the fact that she is a “fiend-like” character. 

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