The basic story of Macbeth by William Shakespeare is about a Scottish thane who learns of three prophecies, which overcome Macbeth leaving his mental state in tatters due to his determination, greed and desire to fulfill those prophecies, even if it means it goes against anything he's ever known morally.Macbeth is an important man in Scotland; he is already the Thane of Glamis and a good friend/kinsman to the elderly King Duncan. He is also a 'fearless' soldier of war and together with his best friend Banquo, came into the top ranks of the army because of his ability and bravery.But for some reason, for Macbeth this isn't enough. In one of the first scenes of the play Macbeth meets with the three Weird Sisters who tell him that he will be the Thane of Cawdor and 'King hereafter'; and it's this final prophecy that changes things for Macbeth.
Judging by the films of the play that I have seen, Macbeth always seems to look caught out or guilty when the final Weird Sister says this, so I imagine that it is his deepest, darkest desire which he suppressed so no one suspected him of being a traitor to his country and his king. But, the Weird Sisters didn't actually tell him specifically when he would become king; it could be right then, or it could be in several years time. But Macbeth is an impatient man it seems, and so he thinks of how he could speed up the prediction -- and comes to the conclusion it would have to be murder without any hesitation.He writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth, straight away and tells her of what was said, but never once mentions his secret intentions to her. She however automatically thinks of murder as her husband did, again, without any hesitation.
I would say she came to this conclusion because of one of two things: Macbeth could have indeed told her his desires as they seem to be so intimate with each other, 'My dearest partner of greatness', however, although they seemed close as a couple, I doubt somehow that Macbeth would have spoken aloud what he really yearned for in front of her as she too was friends with King Duncan and I don't think he could really risk her being infuriated with him for it and inevitably resenting him for his lack of loyalty that he had shown to a great degree before.If she saw another side to him which she didn't like and saw that there were things which were almost lies that she had thought about him -- Lady Macbeth would probably make his life miserable; as we, the readers, do understand her temperament and know that she would not stand for any sort of inconsistency on his part.My other theory is that they were a couple who were genuinely in love and had a profound mental and emotional connection with each other, therefore being on the same wavelength or being able to read between the other's lines which I would imagine was something that was there form the start, as oppose to developing throughout the relationship, and this could be one of the reasons they were attracted to each other in the first place.I would tend to lean toward my latter theory as the first is too simple for such complex characters and simply, I think that the Macbeths have too strong a relationship and an inexplicable chemistry for the former to actually happen, in my opinion.Also, in that same quote, we can already see that Macbeth thinks of them as equals. Now, in this era; this would be quite atypical as it is usually the men who 'lead', as it were, in the relationship, and/or the woman might think, or at least hope that they are equals.
This is one of the reasons why I would say that the Macbeths have a strong relationship together and are in love, as opposed to many couples of the time who were joined in matrimony but not joined emotionally or intimately. One other reason why I think this is because Macbeth took the time out especially to write to her, informing Lady Macbeth of his latest news instead of waiting until he saw her next to tell her.However, it doesn't say in the text whether she shares his opinion of being equals, so maybe Macbeth is in love with her and she may be cooler about the relationship than him -- ultimately, the reader would have to decide.Possibly the most interesting thing about the Macbeths relationship is the dominant vs. submissive instance. To explain it: a dominant character can not exist without someone being submissive to its dominance (for example; good and evil cannot exist without each other to counter) and vice versa for the submissive character.
So, if the dominant character cannot be dominant without the submissive then technically it is the submissive that is in control of the dominant, allowing the dominant to be as it is.So, to apply that basic rule to the Macbeths, it would appear that Lady Macbeth is the more dominant to Macbeth's more submissive personality, and this rule works very well with this relationship because of Lady's Macbeth's fate.Lady Macbeth cannot be dominant without Macbeth and therefore, when he disregards her and he becomes entirely consumed by his megalomaniac streak, it shows that it is indeed Macbeth who controls his wife's own personality.In scene v of act 1, we can already see that the Macbeths have an atypical affinity which I believe to be the result of two very different complimenting personalities.The personality that I am mainly focusing on is that of Lady Macbeth whom I deem as very interesting. For the era that the play is set in, Lady Macbeth is hugely contrasting to any other women written from the same time.
While Lady Macbeth speaks of murder and demons, hell and hatred, while Lady Macduff, who features later in the play talks about family and its importance to her -- the typical wife.I think that the comparison between Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff is extremely interesting; both women were married and have had children (for Lady Macduff; act 4, scene ii is self-evident of her being a mother; and for Lady Macbeth; act 1, scene vii:I have given suck, and knowHow tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:I would, while it was smiling in my face,Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as youHave done to this. )Yet Lady Macbeth only mentions this as a sort of inspirational comparison for her husband to commit the deed of murdering Duncan; using her sexuality and maliciousness to its uppermost limits, torturing Macbeth (who is evidently the more feeling of the two, surprisingly) spitefully about their [probably] dead child in order to persuade him to do something that, when push came to shove, she was more keen than him. This is notably intriguing as it shows just how far Lady Macbeth is willing to take her desires for power and how cowardly (but sensible) Macbeth is, contrasting to his nature on the battlefield where he is decidedly more ruthless:Till he unseamed him from the nave to the chaps,And fixed his head upon our battlements.
However, back to the distinction between Lady Macduff and Lady Macbeth: the former woman is mellow and caring; the stereotypical mother and wife whereas the latter woman is hard-hearted, cruel and malicious. However she loses none of her femininity with those traits, to her annoyance.She, when thinking of murder believes that only a man could be heartless enough to kill (another feminine tendency of hers) and she thinks that she would need those attributes to be able to kill King Duncan. 'Unsex me here .
.. Come to my woman's breasts, And take my milk for gall...'She denies herself her own femininity by constantly aspiring to 'be like a man' emotionally but by using her physical features as a demonstration.
She would rather be a murderer than a mother and this inhumanity on her part is quite distressing and makes her a barbaric character with no morals and with a sadistic streak -- which is very frightening actually, to know that with the power she has over other powerful people, she can accomplish anything, whether other people have to die for her to have her own way or not, and unfortunately, people do die because she changes her husband into a remorseless 'killing-machine'; for want of a better phrase.What she is actually saying though, is that she does actually have these traits anyway, whereas Macbeth does not: so she says that she would make a better man than Macbeth if only she could rid herself of her woman's features.And Lady Macbeth is actually summoning demons and the devil to take her woman's qualities and for them to be replaced with an emotionless heart and a cruel mind, which in my opinion she already has; a play's purpose is basically to entertain, so if something is apparently necessary to build up tension or to have some ulterior underlying-meaning then, it must be so, even if it really doesn't aid the character development or the plot of the story.But either way, in the time that it was aimed at, the occult was an issue that was avoided at all cost and was something that people in those days feared, mainly because of the tight reigns of the church over the country, pressing into people the dangers that occult arts, etc. can bring.
Talking about witchcraft was more than likely not 'politically correct', so the play must have been scandalous.So, if Lady Macbeth is offering herself (offering her soul?) to the devil so that she may have the lack of heart to murder, that too is a very scary issue for people of that day to deal with. It would mean that she would be a 'servant of the devil' and would therefore do his work instead of God's, and apparently the devil's evil is limitless, so he could drive Lady Macbeth to do terrifying, unthinkable things...
And, as another possible religious reference, is:'Why, it stood by her: she has light by hercontinually; 'tis her command'This implies to me that after giving her soul to the devil, she is now trying to gain it back again by seeking some sort of solace in God or good, again.The only sign of any vulnerability before that that she shows at this point in the play is:Had he not resembledMy father as he slept, I had done 't.It is difficult to say whether Lady Macbeth really meant this, rather than using it to excuse her from murdering Duncan, but I like to think that she had a trace of humanity in her.But by summoning up the devil to aid her, the occult now has a hold over her which Lady Macbeth can use to an advantage over Macbeth who is susceptible to it (the three Weird Sisters have a hold over him also).
More evidence of witchcraft in the play in Lady Macbeth's final scene where she says, 'Out, damned spot! Out, I say!' Although it is supposedly yet another reference to blood, it could also be interpreted as the spot [of dye?] on the palm of the hand which is a feature that some witches apparently have. By Lady Macbeth telling the spot to go, she could also be trying to rid herself of the devil's hold over her, therefore becoming 'human' again.The last we see of Lady Macbeth before her final scene at the well-known banquet scene where Macbeth hallucinates, envisioning his late friend, Banquo, whom he had ordered to be assassinated. Macbeth, afterwards is not as hysterical as he was after he had murdered Duncan, but is in fact quite defeatist, saying that they had better get used to killing and he will suffer less, the more he does it:Come, we'll to sleep. My strange and self-abuseIs the initiate fear, that wants hard use:We are but young in deed.
A very good scene to compare with Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene is Act 2, scene ii just after Macbeth has committed the deed or murdering Duncan. There is so much dramatic irony between the two scenes as the Macbeths exchange:Mb: Methought I heard a voice cry, "Sleep no more!Macbeth does murder sleep," - the innocent sleep;...LMb: A little water clears us of this deed:The ironic thing is that in Act 5, scene i Lady Macbeth no longer has the ability to sleep peacefully; even her dreams are filled with the horror of her reality, and her guilt and paranoia drive her, eventually, to take her own life.
Also there is the Lady Macbeth quote (above) where she is very nonchalant about the murder and Macbeth's outburst, but if only she had taken the matter more seriously, then probably she would have had the self-doubt and guilt shown in her final scene.She tells Macbeth that water will solve his problem (a possible religious reference again, and while possessed with evil, she would become immune, as it were, to the goodness of water.)In Act 5, scene I, she is constantly rubbing her hands, trying to wash away the blood which only she can see, and it is a compulsion for her now, because she can always see that blood and there is nothing that she can do to rid herself of it, 'Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes in Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.'Lady Macbeth is someone who I view as having very few friends, if any, and so her sociality was limited to talking to Macbeth alone or hosting banquets, where she would only be on the sidelines as it was Macbeth, rather than her, who was the important person in the house.
So, after Lady Macbeth has persuaded Macbeth to kill, his ethics and morals are forgotten and he, now a complete paranoid megalomaniac, must keep killing or ordering murders to hold his original sinister secret. 'Blood will have blood', Macbeth says, and he is right - although the murders become less necessary and more sadistic and in his power-obsessed state, he slowly stops including Lady Macbeth in his business, leaving her alone with no one to share her ordeal which includes guilt in her heart and the image of the lifeless Duncan and his blood etched in her mind. Because, somewhere between Act 3 and Act 5 Lady Macbeth has begun to 'feel' (I don't think that Lady Macbeth showed weakness in her state of mind before Act 5, scene I, contrary to what other people have said about it. I view it as while Macbeth was not including her, and was off on his own little 'mental-journey', Lady Macbeth let her loneliness become a weakness and while she had a weakness, she was susceptible to more - which ended up consuming her and leaving her crazed.This brings me to the notable use of structure in Act 5, scene i.
While all of Lady Macbeth's previous speech has been in verse, suddenly when she becomes mad, her speeches are downgraded to being in prose which, by definition, is applied to characters of lesser importance than a main character.Upon a brief study of other 'mad' characters created by Shakespeare, Macbeth in his hallucinations at the banquet earlier in the play had speech in verse, whereas Edgar from King Lear whilst pretending to be mad had his speech in verse - either proving that Shakespeare was inconsistent in this rule (the crazed main characters having prose speech) or my rule is a wavering theory. Again, the latter would probably be true.Actually though, Lady Macbeth losing her mind does not fit her character, a lot of the theories as to how it happens stay theories as it doesn't forewarn it in the text and again, I don't see any weakness in her before her final scene. The reason as to why it happens though is obvious: evil cannot triumph over good and so has to be defeated - just as Macduff defeats Macbeth at the end of the play.
The play is a tragedy, and generally it is believed that Macbeth is the tragic character because it is his ambition which is his fatal flaw which then leads him to his death and his fatal flaw draws in his wife. However, I don't think this. Lady Macbeth is the other tragic character in the play. Her fatal flaw is her determination and to some extent, her sexuality.If Lady Macbeth was not a woman, then I doubt she would have been able to influence Macbeth into committing the first murder therefore, leaving the story of Macbeth without a plot and rather pointless.I conclude that the two scenes are important, Act 1, scene v is very important to the plot and Act 5, scene i is more important to the morals of the story; that good must conquer evil.