The Role of Lady Macbeth

1957 Words Jun 24th, 2018 8 Pages
The female roles in William Shakespeare's Macbeth are those of the witches, more supernatural than human, Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff, the latter being presented in a minor, almost insignificant way. This paper will explore the role of Lady Macbeth and only make slight comment on the witches.

Fanny Kemble in "Lady Macbeth" finds that the main female role could have ended in madness due to the evil tendencies of the lady: Lady Macbeth, even in her sleep, has no qualms of conscience; her remorse takes none of the tenderer forms akin to repentance, nor the weaker ones allied to fear, from the pursuit of which the tortured soul, seeking where to hide itself, not seldom escapes into the boundless wilderness of madness. (116-17)
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As Macbeth goes to Scone to be "invested" in his kingly office, the queen is lamenting the state of "doubtful joy" in which the royal couple is living, nightly afflicted by "terrible dreams." Even she is prey to disturbance within her soul for the crimes committed.

L.C. Knights in the essay "Macbeth" describes the unnaturalness in the thoughts and words of the plays dominant female force, Lady Macbeth:

Thus the sense of the unnaturalness of evil is evoked not only be repeated explicit references ("nature's mischief," "nature seems dead," " 'Tis unnatural, even like the deed that's done," and so on) but by the expression of unnatural sentiments and an unnatural violence of tone in such things as Lady Macbeth's invocation of the "spirits" who will "unsex" her, and her affirmation that she would murder the babe at her breast if she had sworn to do it. (95)

In Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, Northrop Frye shows that a lady is the actual driving force in the play:

That Macbeth is being hurried into a premature act by his wife is a point unlikely to escape the most listless member of the audience, but Macbeth comes to regret the instant of fatal delay in murdering Macduff, and draws the moral that

The flighty purpose never is o'ertook

Unless the deed go with it. From this moment

The very firstlings of my heart shall

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