English Macbeth essay

Shakespeare constructs our understanding of Lady Macbeth by presenting her as the dominant character in her marriage, playing against the stereotype of women in the Jacobean era (as they would have been looked upon as the inferior Gender) and using language devices.

One way Lady Macbeth is portrayed as the dominant character is the manner in which she speaks to Macbeth, which is the language she uses when directly talking to/about him without his presence. This is definitely not how a typical Jacobean woman would refer to her husband. The phrase: “Tis not done. The attempt and not the deed confounds us.” is a strong example of how Lady Macbeth thinks about her husband. The attempt and not the deed is a phrase that Lady Macbeth uses which doubts whether the ‘Deed’ (the attempt to kill King Duncan) has been completed. The very fact that Lady Macbeth is doubting her husband and is involved in such murder shows that Lady Macbeth is not a typical wife.

This quotation would have been said without realising that her husband has just appeared behind her-this is shown by a note in the side-lines of the play stating so. By this we are sure that Lady Macbeth is speaking only her thoughts as she has nobody to force false thoughts and opinions into her head.

Lady Macbeth states in another scene “If you loved me then you would do as I ask” and clearly shows that she has power over Macbeth’s actions, and the main controller of the operations and tasks that Macbeth is carrying out. This presents the theme of Power Imbalance inside the relationship which is also against the stereotypical impression of a Jacobean woman. Women at the time were expected to be: loyal; obedient; respecting of their husbands and to be the woman of the house- whose job would to be to bring up children, not to be involved in such business that Lady Macbeth is in.

Shakespeare’s authorial intent was clearly to create Lady Macbeth to be unusual and different to what the audience would have expected- to make the play more controversial and to create an impression of Lady Macbeth that would outdo the evil of Macbeth to the point that you start to pity Macbeth. The intention of pitying Macbeth could have different interpretations. A person at the time could have thought that the reason for this was to make you go against the character of Lady Macbeth as you would feel that she is threatening the male authority, this would connote that the decisions made were to show the dangers of female dominance. On the other hand, especially nowadays this could show female dominance in a positive manner, and support Lady Macbeth herself. Personally I feel that Shakespeare’s authorial intention was to show what a place that had a dominant female could be like and show the dangers of it. Shakespeare also seems to present this as a minor occurrence as there is only one character that is female that plays any significant role- and that is Lady Macbeth.

Another instance in which Lady Macbeth is presented as the dominant character is when she states “But I shame to wear a heart so white.” Again this is an accusation towards Macbeth, this time she is saying his ‘heart is to White’. A white heart has the connotations of a good one- white being the opposite of dark and evil. This connotes that Lady Macbeth believes that Macbeth’s heart is too good, not evil enough to complete the simple tasks he has to undertake to become King. This is an effective use of a metaphor to strengthen understanding of the difference between heavenly and evil. The accusation includes emotive language such as shame to present Lady Macbeth’s severe disappointment. As we can see- again the roles in this relationship have been swapped to make Lady Macbeth the dominant character (presenting the theme of role reversal).

Lady Macbeth has directly described her husband as too frail and weak to perform the task, which typically would not have been what women do in the Jacobean era. This shows us an example of irony in the text as women were usually presented as weak and fragile. Shakespeare is again presenting Lady Macbeth as an unusual character choice, who manipulates her husband using metaphors and emotive language. Emotive language is the most important device used as it makes Lady Macbeth able to get inside Macbeth’s emotional head and make him feel guilt to change the ways in which he acts. Since Macbeth is emotionally attached to his wife she uses this against him to manipulate him.

Over the course of the play Shakespeare has created a character of Lady Macbeth that is cold, sly and a dominant character in comparison to Macbeth. This is done by acting against stereotypes and using devices such as emotive language, metaphors and manner of speech. Shakespeare constructs her to make a controversial character and put an interesting twist on the play of Macbeth. I think Shakespeare did this to promote what could happen if the tables turned and Jacobean women acted differently- effectively a precaution.


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