Lady Macbeth Character Analysis and Plot of the Play

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Though Macbeth calls to the witches asking what they meant by calling him Thane of Cawdor, they never respond but instead turn their attention to Banquo, saying “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. Not so happy, yet much happier.” Though the witches also prophesize that Banquo’s sons will be kings one day, Banquo is known among his peers as a noble hero and is even said to be just as great as Macbeth. Banquo, even as predicted by the witches, will always be worse and better than Macbeth. Whether that means Banquo is better because he does not commit murder in order to get his way, or worse because he does not have a similar level of immoral ambition as Macbeth, is unknown. Banquo, being Macbeth’s closest ally and best friend, is completely unaware that he will be Macbeth’s second victim on his way to the throne. Macbeth loses sight of his once dear friend and succumbs to madness in his journey for power.

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“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way.”Lady Macbeth explains, calling Macbeth too moral and too good of a person to commit the most obvious act, murder the king. “Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it.”  Lady Macbeth believes that Macbeth has the ambition, but lacks the ability to do what he must in order to become King; murder anyone who gets in their way. Gender and power are two key elements in Lady Macbeth’s character analysis an example of this is “That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between Th’effect and it. Come to my woman’s breasts. And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers, Whatever in your sightless substances You wait on nature’s mischief.”  A common theme in Shakespeare’s plays is the link between masculinity and brutal ambition, and femininity and manipulation. Lady Macbeth is begging the spirits to remove her femininity and womanhood in order for her to have the courage to kill Duncan. Though Lady Macbeth plans to kill Duncan herself “Bear welcome in your eye, Your hand, your tongue. Look like the’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under ‘t. He that’s coming Must be provide for: and you shall put This Night’s great business into my dispatch this is just one example of how Lady Macbeth emasculates Macbeth.

After the evening’s feast in Scene 7, Macbeth decides that he does not want to go through with their plan of killing Duncan. Lady Macbeth reacts by calling Macbeth a coward. “Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely?” Demeaning Macbeth by implying that he was drunk when he was initially so hopeful of the idea, and asking if he awoke green and pale in fear. Lady Macbeth then questions his love for her if he is unable to perform his task, “From this time Such I account thy love.”  “Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valor As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,” Lady Macbeth is calling Macbeth a coward, asking if he values the object of life rather than live the rest of his life a coward and living in an existence being afraid of “I would”. Macbeth responds with “Prithee. Peace: I dare do all that may become a man: Who dares do more is none. Begging for Lady Macbeth to stop, Macbeth says that it would be improper for a man to commit this act and that whoever has the courage to do so, is not a man at all. Lady Macbeth goes on to mock Macbeth by comparing him to an animal, asking what kind of beast he was when they had first decided to kill Duncan, since Macbeth is no longer a man because he is a coward that lacks the ability to go through with their plans.

We, as an audience, already know that Macbeth is easily influenced as shown through his obsession with the prophecy and him beginning to believe that he is not worthy of his manliness after being verbally assaulted and emasculated by Lady Macbeth. After hearing the prophecy, Macbeth is already beginning to wonder what he would have to do in order to achieve his goal of becoming King, and he is already considering committing murder. We know this because of the quote “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs Against the use of nature? Present fears Are less than horrible imaginings.” The use of nature is the circle of life, birth and death. What could be more terrifying than being forced to commit violence out of your own volition and ambition? Although greatly influenced by the prophecy foretold by the Witches, along with Lady Macbeth’s manipulation, Macbeth was the originator of the idea to murder Duncan. Therefore, Macbeth is not a victim but rather the antagonist, aggressor, and committer.  

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