How is one able to control his or her emotions when the surrounding environment is influencing one personally? Lady Macbeth finds the answer to this simple; impossible. Lady Macbeth continues to be controlled by others subconsciously whether it is through her own control, other actions or pure guilt. The actions of characters and events that occur in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth affect the life and mental wellness of Lady Macbeth directly and cause her to digress from dominant to voyeur, and then finally to victim, causing the play to be more enticing.
To start, Lady Macbeth is a dominant, deceiving and determined woman. For example, Lady Macbeth’s dominance and control are shown when she and Macbeth are discussing the plan for King Duncan’s murder. Lady Macbeth says, “Your hand, your tongue; look like th’innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under’t.” (1.5.64-65). Lady Macbeth’s control is revealed when she says this because she is openly manipulating Macbeth and telling him how to act and what to do.
Also, Lady Macbeth’s dominance is shown while she and Macbeth discuss the murder of Duncan.
Lady Macbeth says, “We fail?/ But screw your courage to the sticking-place” (1.7.59-60). When Lady Macbeth says this she shows the audience that she is able to overpower her husband’s courage with her own. Another example of Lady Macbeth’s persona is when she uses her ability to deceive while talking with Duncan upon his arrival to her castle. Lady Macbeth says to Duncan, “All our service,/ In every point twice done then done double” (1.6.16-17). Her deception is proved when she says this because she is acting like a pleasant host to Duncan’s face but her motives are much less than pleasant. The deception Lady Macbeth shows while talking to Duncan is successful when Duncan falls for it with no suspicion. This is proved when Duncan says, “Give me your hand;/ Conduct me to mine host: we love him highly/ and shall continue our graces towards him./ By your leave hostess.” Duncan allowing Lady Macbeth to hold his hand indicates that he has a trust in her and does not have a doubt upon the person he see Lady Macbeth as and has no idea about the motives of his host and hostess. Lady Macbeth is able to use her deceptive abilities after the murder of Duncan is committed.
Lady Macbeth says, “[Her] hands are of [his] colour, but [she] shame[s] to wear a heart so white.” (2.2.62-68). This quotation means that Lady Macbeth still bares the innocence she had before the deed to the eye of others, hence, having a heart so white. This proven to be true because everyone looks at Lady Macbeth as innocent and pure, as if she could do no harm, but the truth is the total opposite. Also, Lady Macbeth’s determination shows through when she calls upon the dark spirits to give her the courage and strength of a male figure and to relieve her of the womanly kindness she possesses. Lady Macbeth asks for this by saying, “Come you spirits/ That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here/ And fill me from the crown to the toe topfull/ Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood” (1.5.39-42).
The determination of Lady Macbeth is shown in this quote because she is doing something as drastic as calling upon the dark spirits to assist her in committing murder. As a result, Lady Macbeth’s dominating personality is able to pursue to her plan of murdering King Duncan successfully, without resistance from her husband. Secondly, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s roles switch, leaving Lady Macbeth standing off, with less control and becoming more of a voyeur to the plans of Macbeth. To start, Lady Macbeth is first being stripped of her control right after Duncan’s death is discovered and Macbeth has killed the guard in order to remove suspicion from him. The audience is aware of this deed when Macbeth says, “O, yet I do repent me of my fury/ That I did kill them.” (2.3.102-103). Lady Macbeth begins to lose control over this because she had no idea or warning of Macbeth’s killing of the guards.
This act also takes a toll on Lady Macbeth’s physical state when it causes her to faint. Lady Macbeth fainting is a sure sign of her losing the control she had earlier because not only are other characters leaving her out but also, her own body is causing her to be in that state as well. Next, Macbeth kills Banquo upon his intuition that Banquo has suspicion towards him in the case of Duncan’s murder. Lady Macbeth was ill-informed on this matter which is yet another sign that she is losing control over the characters that she had control over previously and is now watching the action happen. Also, at a dinner, which Lady Macbeth and Macbeth were hosting together, Lady Macbeth first could not get Macbeth the welcome his guests. This is proved when Lady Macbeth says to Macbeth, “My royal lord,/ You do not give the cheer; the feast is sold/ That is not often vouch’d while ‘tis a-making ,/ ‘Tis given with welcome. (3.4.33-36). She (Lady Macbeth) also loses more control over Macbeth at this dinner when she is unable to calm him down when he sees the ghosts of Banquo and Duncan.
In this situation Lady Macbeth attempts to gain some control by saying to him, “You have displac’d the mirth, broke the good meeting/ With most admir’d disorder.” (3.4.109-110). The acting-out of Macbeth leaves Lady Macbeth both astonished and over powered. These two instances especially show Lady Macbeth losing control over, not only situations but other characters themselves. Lastly, Macbeth kills Macduff’s wife and children upon suspicion without Lady Macbeth’s push or permission and neglects to inform her of the deed directly and chooses just to imply it during conversation with her. As the two (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) are talking Macbeth says, “Come, we’ll to sleep. My strange and self-abuse/ Is the initiate fear that wants hard use;/ We are yet but young in deed.”(3.4.143-144).
When Macbeth says this it has the implication of the commitment of another foul deed which Lady Macbeth is only aware of at this point. Macbeth’s drastic actions cause Lady Macbeth to fall uncontrollably uninformed and into the background. Finally, Lady Macbeth ends the play being dominated by her feelings of guilt and the consequences of Duncan’s murder and ultimately becomes a victim to it. To start, Lady Macbeth begins to sleep walk and admits her affiliation in Duncan’s murder. Proof of Lady Macbeth’s sleep walking is proved when the Gentlewoman (a spectator of the situation) says, “Ay, but their senses are shut.” (5.1.23). She says this after the doctor (the second spectator of the situation) mentions that Lady Macbeth has her eyes open. The Gentlewoman’s line lets the audience know she is indeed sleep walking for her eyes may be open but there sense is disabled. Also in this scene Lady Macbeth’s self control is shown to have weakened further, when she speaks of Duncan’s murder.
Lady Macbeth says, “Out, dammed spot! Out, I say! One, two. Why then ‘tis/ time to do’t. Hell is murky, Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier,/ and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when/ none can call our power to account? Yet who would/ have thought the man to have had so much blood/ in him?” (5.1.31-36) and also when she says, “The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now? What,/ will these hands ne’re be clean?” (5.1.38-39). These quotes both prove that she knew and was involved in the murders of Duncan and Macduff’s family and shows that these events are the reason for her stress, guilt and sleep walking, hence being dominated/ being victim to these emotions. Next, Lady Macbeth is being dominated by her feelings of guilt when she is seen washing her hand continuously during her sleep walking. While she is doing this she says, “Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of/ Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. O, O, O.” (5.1.44-45).
This quote shows that Lady Macbeth is overcome by her guilt because she mentally imagines the blood still being there, following her, her mind lets her believe she is still covered in the blood when in reality the blood is just representing the guilt she is feeling. A second example of Lady Macbeth being dominated by her guilt symbolically is when she is dreaming of/ replaying the scene in while sleep walking. Lady Macbeth says, “To bed, to bed; there’s knocking at the gate. Come,/ come, come, come, give me your hand; what’s done/ cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed.” (5.1.58-60). This quote directly shows the audience that it is indeed the murder of Duncan which Lady Macbeth is stressing over as it is a deed which “cannot be undone”. Lastly, Lady Macbeth shows that she is becoming victim to the outcome of events, and more directly herself when she commits suicide. The audience discovers her death when Seyton (another Thane) informs Macbeth of the incident.
Seyton says, “The queen, my lord, is dead.” (5.5.16). Lady Macbeth becomes victim to herself in the way that she sees the only option to relieve her of her painful emotions is to kill herself. Therefore, Lady Macbeth is ultimately dominated and falls victim to the guilt she feels caused by the actions of herself and others. To conclude, the mental state and physical well-being of Lady Macbeth is influenced by the dominance and control of both herself and other characters in the play.
Lady Macbeth went from being dominant, deceiving, and determined to being uninformed during the murders Macbeth commits to being over some by her emotions that had built up inside her during all of this. Therefore, Lady Macbeth’s life as the audience knows it is dependable on the outcome of events that Lady Macbeth herself is involved in and/ or witnesses. Temptation was the base of all Lady Macbeth’s problems; it is said “temptation is the Devil.” What would you risk to get what you want?
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