Power in Macbeth

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Macbeth is a tragic play written by Shakespeare in the 16th century. The play consists of Macbeth, the protagonist, and his wife, Lady Macbeth, who controls and manipulates Macbeth to achieve power. I will be exploring how Lady Macbeth is responsible for her husband’s rise to power as she uses different methods of control and manipulation towards her husband to kill the King.

In the play, Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband into murdering King Duncan to achieve power. For example, In Act 1 Scene 5, Lady Macbeth thinks her husband is weak and unmanly “...yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o'th milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way.” This shows that Lady Macbeth fears Macbeth is too kind as this will interfere in the way of Macbeth becoming the next king. Lady Macbeth says “to catch the nearest way” to show that it is the best opportunity to commit the murder which reveals what Lady Macbeth thinks of her husband. The audience would feel shocked as Lady Macbeth complains about Macbeth being too kind and she would want to go against her nature to achieve the power she desires even though women during the 17th century were meant to be giving actions of kindness. Shakespeare uses the language of Lady Macbeth wanting to go against her nature to show the determination and ambition for her husband and herself as king and queen. This quote links to the theme of gender roles and ambition as Lady Macbeth wants power by killing Duncan and how she explains her disadvantage of being a female.

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Lady Macbeth continues to try and manipulate Macbeth to murder the king by toying with his emotions. In Act 1 Scene 7, she says “Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressed? Hath it slept since? And wakes its now, to look so green and pale, At what it did so freely?” After toying with Macbeth’s emotions, she uses an appeal to pathos to pressure Macbeth to follow her intentions. This quote shows Lady Macbeth’s repeated rhetorical questions punish Macbeth for his cowardice, asking him how he could hold himself from his ambitions. Lady Macbeth continues to belittle Macbeth to humiliate him thus damaging Macbeth’s ego and self-esteem which is an attempt to make Macbeth follow her orders to preserve his masculinity. Constant criticisms from Lady Macbeth towards her husband's doubts would attack his emotions and appeal to pathos. This quote contradicts with females in the 11th century being weak and nurturing whereas males are seen as strong and tough as Lady Macbeth is seen as stronger than Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth by questioning his masculinity. She says ”Wouldst thou have that, Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life and live a coward in thine own esteem? When you durst do it than you were a man; and to be more than what you were you would be so much more the man.” In this quote, Lady Macbeth manipulates his husband by talking about his maturity. This shows how Lady Macbeth retains Macbeth’s position as the head of the house and claims it for herself. Also, this quote shows Lady Macbeth saying that Macbeth was a man when he dared to kill, Lady Macbeth informs Macbeth that his words were strong; however she contrasts this statement by saying how he will be more of a man if he changes She gives a clear statement by saying he is a man then contrasting her statement by giving the requirements to become a man which implies that her husband has not been a man before. This literary technique empowers Macbeth to gather his intentions and commit to them. The audience would feel that Lady Macbeth is contrasting the social status of the Elizabethan Age stating that men are above women. Shakespeare uses this language to link back and emphasize Lady Macbeth wanting to go against her nature revealing to the audience her determination.

In the play, Lady Macbeth is also responsible for controlling her husband. In Act 1 Scene 5, she says ”Look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.” In this quote, Lady Macbeth urges her husband to deceive everyone around them as they plan the king’s murder. The metaphor “Look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under ‘t” shows Lady Macbeth telling Macbeth to be two-faced: to look fair and honorable on the outside but be cunning and deadly on the inside. Shakespeare uses a comma on the quote to show the enjabment of the lines highlighting Lady Macbeth’s smooth cunning. Also, the turning point marked by the conjunction ‘but’ shows the sharp contrast between outward appearance and inner reality. It is shown how manipulative Lady Macbeth is as she begins her instructions with the imperative verb ‘Look’. This illustrates how she is powerfully controlling her husband. The imagery in the quotation reminds the Jacobean audience who go to the church of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Lady Macbeth’s language links her to Eve, the weak woman who is tempted to disobey Adam resulting in the disobeying of God. By doing this, Shakespeare shows Lady Macbeth as sinful and manipulative of current ideas of women. Lady Macbeth’s words highlight the theme of appearance and reality and at the start of the play when the witches chant “Fair is foul and foul is fair” establishing a world where nothing is as it seems and is therefore dangerous. Lady Macbeth’s words about looking like a charming flower while plotting evil build on this theme as Shakespeare adds to the dramatic tension of the play as the audience begins to see how deadly the story will become.

Lady Macbeth continues to control her husband after the murder of King Duncan. In Act 2 Scene 2, “Infirm of purpose” shows Lady Macbeth insulting Macbeth. She means that he is not solid or concrete, that he is not firm, in his determination to go through with what he wants and needs to do. She is insulting him because he's afraid to take the bloody daggers back to Duncan's chambers. She mocks him by saying that the dead body is just like a harmless photograph. And, she says, only a child is afraid of a painted picture, even if it is of a devil. This quote shows that Lady Macbeth has successfully taken control of her emotions into murdering King Duncan. This reveals how Lady Macbeth belittles Macbeth to manipulate and pressure him into killing Duncan. It shows the audience the cruelty and greed of Lady Macbeth in achieving her desired power. Shakespeare uses this language to show that Lady Macbeth is taking the role of a male as she is the one controlling her partner showing that she is more dominant.

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Power in Macbeth. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/power-in-macbeth/
“Power in Macbeth.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/power-in-macbeth/
Power in Macbeth. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/power-in-macbeth/> [Accessed 24 Jul. 2024].
Power in Macbeth [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2024 Jul 24]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/power-in-macbeth/

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