Lady Macbeth is a striking character in Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth, a focus of divergent opinions. For hundreds of years, she has been regarded as a cruel and vicious woman, which is the direct cause and culprit of Macbeth’s tragedy. It is obvious that Lady Macbeth’s patriarchal consciousness is the main cause of her downfall. It is mainly reflected in the following three aspects: extreme control of her husband; volunteer to relieve the weakness of women; intention of turning her husband into a cold blooded murderer.
To start with, her extreme control of her husband causes her downfall. She is a manipulative person. This can be seen from her words to her husband, “When you durst do it, then you were a man” “Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!” (1.7.49). Also, she even wants to teach husband what to do and what not to do. Lady Macbeth says to her husband, “Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue: look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under ‘t. He that’s coming must be provided for: and you shall put this night’s great business into my dispatch;” (1.5.64-68). Moreover, she always belittles her husband. “When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man.” (1. 7. 49-51). She does not consider her husband as a great man, but a weak person.
Secondly, she volunteers to relieve the weakness of women for the husband. Lady Macbeth had some masculine character which had to be tied to her female body. This restricted her movement to a certain extent. It was in this situation that she aroused a kind of worship for her husband. “A woman’s story at a winter’s fire, Authorized by her grandam. Shame itself! Why do you make such faces? When all’s done, You look but on a stool.” (3.4.73-81). She considers her husband a green and pale person, while thinking of herself as a man. “Wherein you dress’d yourself? hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely? 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” (1.7.39-43). She also thinks what her husband cannot do for him. “Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature” (1.5.47-50). Therefore, she gives up her own female weakness and thinks everything as a man for her husband.
Finally, she intends to turn her husband into a cold blooded killer. Her ideas of murdering immediately jumped out of her mind when she got the letter from her husband. Thy letters have transported me beyond This ignorant present, and I feel now The future in the instant. (1.6.64-66). She is not satisfied with her husband’s weakness. “Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” (1.5.16-18). She urges him not to be like a girl. “O, proper stuff! This is the very painting of your fear. This is the air-drawn dagger which you said Led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts,” (3.4. 73-76). Thus, Lady Macbeth’s ambition forces her to make herself and her husband become cold blooded killers.
Lady Macbeth is considered as a vicious woman who shows the evil side of human nature She is the direct factor and culprit leading to Macbeth’s tragedy. Lady Macbeth was the earliest instigator of the brutal plan to bring Macbeth to the throne. Her patriarchal consciousness makes her full of ambition and strong desire for power, which were the driving force for her downfall.
- Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. A Collection of Great Drama. Ed. Tom Smith. Oxford: Globe Theater Press, 2005. 1235-1298. Print.