Lady Macbeth is a dynamic character who plays an important role in the tragic ‘Macbeth’ play written by William Shakespeare.
Disruption of gender roles
Lady Macbeth explores the gender roles of society in Scotland
Lady Macbeth murmurs that she knows Macbeth is ambitious, but fears he is too full of “th’ milk of human kindness” to take the steps necessary to make himself king (1.5.15). She resolves to convince her husband to do whatever is required to seize the crown. she begs, “you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty” (1.5.38–41). She resolves to put her natural femininity aside so that she can do the bloody deeds necessary to seize the crown. Her violent, blistering soliloquies in Act 1, scenes 5 and 7, testify to her strength of will, which completely eclipses that of her husband. She is well aware of the discrepancy between their respective resolves and understands that she will have to manipulate her husband into acting on the witches’ prophecy. Her soliloquy in Act 1, scene 5, begins the play’s exploration of gender roles, particularly of the value and nature of masculinity. In the soliloquy, she spurns her feminine characteristics, crying out “unsex me here” and wishing that the milk in her breasts would be exchanged for “gall” so that she could murder Duncan herself. These remarks manifest Lady Macbeth’s belief that manhood is defined by murder. When, in Act 1, scene 7, her husband is hesitant to murder Duncan, she goads him by questioning his manhood and by implicitly comparing his willingness to carry through on his intention of killing Duncan with his ability to carry out a sexual act (1.7.38–41). Throughout the play, whenever Macbeth shows signs of faltering, Lady Macbeth implies that he is less than a man. Macbeth exclaims that Lady Macbeth should “bring forth men-children only” because she is so bold and courageous. Since Macbeth succumbs to Lady Macbeth’s wishes immediately following this remark, it seems that he is complimenting her and affirming her belief that courage and brilliance are masculine traits. But the comment also suggests that Macbeth is thinking about his legacy. He sees Lady Macbeth’s boldness and masculinity as heroic and warrior like, while Lady Macbeth invokes her supposed masculine “virtues” for dark, cruel purposes. Unlike Macbeth, she seems solely concerned with immediate power.
Influential, Seductive, Manipulative
at her husband and ridicules his masculinity in order to make him commit murder (Friedlander). Lady Macbeth soon shows her power over Macbeth when she questions her husband’s manhood and devotion to her when he gets cold feet. Lady Macbeth possesses the power to influence her husband’s decisions in a negative manner. She is stronger, more ruthless and more ambitious than Macbeth. She manipulates Macbeth overrides all of his objections and repeatedly questions his manhood. Macbeth is driven to a point where he feels he has to prove himself, “I am settled and bend-up”. Duncan praises the castle’s pleasant environment, and he thanks Lady Macbeth, who has emerged to greet him, for her hospitality. She replies that it is her duty to be hospitable since she and her husband owe so much to their king. Macbeth declares that he no longer intends to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth, outraged, calls him a coward and questions his manhood: “When you durst do it,” she says, “then you were a man” (1.7.49).
For Lady Macbeth, her ruthlessness and greed of becoming royalty caused her to convince Macbeth to commit murderous acts, such as killing King Duncan. After the role reversal, she became aware of what she had done and realized the magnitude of her guilt. She goes into a state of denial, and commits suicide. The resulting role reversal of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth is evidence that guilt and greed eventually lead to a character’s downfall.