The Character of Lady Macbeth


We are introduced to Lady Macbeth in the beginning of Act 1, Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s drama Macbeth. We find her reading Macbeth’s letter in which he has mentioned his strange encounter with the Weird Sisters and their strange, greetings. The excitement she expresses after reading the letter shows that she is a fiercely ambitious woman. In her soliloquy, she decides to chastise Macbeth “with valour of my tongue” because Macbeth is “too full of the milk of human kindness” to get rid of Duncan. She waits for Macbeth’s return so that she may her ‘spirits’ into his ears. The image of Lady Macbeth in her first soliloquy is really frightening.

In the second soliloquy, she invokes the spirits of darkness, asks them to unsex her and to “fill me from the crown to the toe top full of direst cruelty”. She asks the spirits of darkness to “come to my woman’s breasts/ And take my milk for gall” and asks the night to cover itself “in the dunnest smoke of hell” so that her own knife itself may not see the wounds it makes. She speaks like a witch then she tells Macbeth to bear “welcome in your eye,/Your hand: look like the innocent flowers/ But be the serpent under it!” She looks even more frightening she goads Macbeth into murdering Duncan by saying that if she had sworn like Macbeth she would have dashed the brains of her child while breastfeeding if necessary. Lady Macbeth shows her mettle when Macbeth shows “flaws and starts” at the sight of Banquo’s ghost in his chair. She scolds Macbeth by saying that what he has seen is actually “the very painting of your fear”.

But Lady Macbeth is not the kind of person she thinks she is. It is because of her capacity for goodness in her that she undergoes unnatural sufferings in the famous sleep-walking scene. The image of Lady Macbeth that gets in Act 5, Scene 1 contrasts sharply with the image of a fiercely determined woman in the early part of the play. The collapse of Lady Macbeth is now complete. In the murder scene, she assures Macbeth that he can wash away his guilt with a little water. But now, ironically enough, she smells blood on her hand and despairs that “all perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”. The deed she wanted to do was an act of unnatural monstrosity and her suffering is unnatural, too. That is why the doctor remarks, “Unnatural deeds/Do breed unnatural troubles.”







Work Cited Page

  • Shakespeare, W., Mowat, B. A., & Werstine, P. (2013). The tragedy of Macbeth. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.
  • Shakespeare, W. (1998). Macbeth. Penguin.

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