William Shakespeare's classic tragedy Macbeth presents an atypical woman in the character of Lady Macbeth. This essay will explore her character.
Fanny Kemble in "Lady Macbeth" depicts the character of Macbeth's wife:
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.
A very able article, published some years ago in the National Review, on the character of Lady Macbeth, insists much upon an opinion that she ...view middle of the document...
Having fixed her eye upon the end - the attainment for her husband of Duncan's crown - she accepts the inevitable means; she nerves herself for the terrible night's work by artificial stimulants; yet she cannot strike the sleeping king who resembles her father. Having sustained her weaker husband, her own strength gives way; and in sleep, when her will cannot control her thoughts, she is piteously afflicted by the memory of one stain of blood upon her little hand. (792)
In "Macbeth as the Imitation of an Action" Francis Fergusson specifies the fears within Lady Macbeth:
I do not need to remind you of the great scenes preceding the murder, in which Macbeth and his Lady pull themselves together for their desperate effort. If you think over these scenes, you will notice that the Macbeths understand the action which begins here as a competition and a stunt, against reason and against nature. Lady Macbeth fears her husband's human nature, as well as her own female nature, and therefore she fears the light of reason and the common dayllight world. As for Macbeth, he knows from the first that he is engaged in an irrational stunt: "I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself / And falls on the other." In this sequence there is also the theme of outwitting or transcending time, an aspect of nature's order as we know it: catching up the consequences, jumping the life to come, and the like. (108)
The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning and three witches who greet Macbeth with "hail to thee, thane of Glamis," "thane of Cawdor," and "thou shalt be king hereafter!" When Ross and Angus arrive with news of Duncan's reward ("He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor"), it is logical for Macbeth to assume that all of the weird sisters' prophecies will come true.
At Inverness in Macbeth's castle, his lady, after appreciating his letter detailing the witches' prophecies, reacts with, "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be / What thou art promised," yet she fears that her husband's nature is "too full o' the milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way" - words whose meaning becomes clear in her subsequent statement: "The raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements."
Duncan's visit to Inverness, a one-night celebration of the victory, occasions quick plotting by the Macbeths ("If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well / It were done quickly"), who are fully aware of the moral evil involved: "But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, / We'ld jump the life to come," and "this even-handed justice / Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice / To our own lips." When Macbeth reconsiders and says to his wife, "We will proceed no further in this business," she responds with an accusation of cowardice, "Art thou afeard / To be the same in thine own act...