Macbeth Is as Much the Tragedy of Lady Macbeth
Macbeth Is as Much the Tragedy of Lady Macbeth

Macbeth Is as Much the Tragedy of Lady Macbeth

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 7 (3311 words)
  • Published: October 22, 2017
Text preview

For my essay I am going to compare the tragedies of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and decide whose is the greater. I will look at how Shakespeare exploits language to heighten drama and tragedy for the audience. William Shakespeare wrote ‘Macbeth’ around the year 1606. It is widely thought that the play was written for the King of Denmark, who was in Londonon a visit to his brother-in-law, James I. Shakespeare found the nucleus of the play in a book, which he used many times in writing his historical plays: Ralph Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland’ published in 1577.

According to Holinshed, Duncan I was a weak king, and Macbeth a rival chief with a genuine grievance. Macbeth had met ‘three woman in evil apparel’, who had made certain prophecies. Encouraged by his wife, and aided by a certain Banquo and some friends, he killed Duncan and reigned honourably for seventeen years. Also in Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles’ there is a story of an old warrior chieftain called King Duff, who was murdered by a man called Donwald and his wife, when the King was staying in their castle as a guest.

Shakespeare combined the two stories in composing the plot of Macbeth. Although there was a historical Lady Macbeth, she had one son, Lulach ‘the simple’, this may explain the child whose brains she would have ‘dash’d out had she so sworn’. The traditional criteria for a tragedy are that the main character has to occupy a weighty and well-respected position. The main character would suffer from a fatal flaw that would eventually lead to their dem

...

ise. To speed up this process, external forces would act as catalysts to the main character’s flaw.

To display the brutal side of the main characters’ flaw, innocents would suffer. Also, at the main character’s demise, the audience would be moved to feel a certain pity for the character’s inner suffering. Such suffering would be revealed mainly during ‘asides’ and ‘soliloquies’, during which the language would be particularly poetic. Such moments of language should allow for the audience to see a window into the character’s inner turmoil. To keep to the traditional tragedy criteria in ‘Macbeth’, innocents do suffer.

The first is obviously Duncan. Duncan at the beginning of the play is the King of Scotland and is Macbeth’s cousin. Macbeth lingers outside of the king’s chamber, ‘whiles I threat, he lives’, just before he murders Duncan. The next innocent to suffer is Macbeth’s best friend Banquo. He convinces the murderers that Banquo is their enemy and not Macbeth, ‘Know that it was he in times past which held you so under fortune’. He cajoles them in murdering Banquo by saying: ‘I will put that business in your bosoms, whose execution takes your enemy off’.

He also states that Banquo is his enemy, to the murderers the job they are set is almost out of loyalty to their king as it is revenge, ‘so he is mine: and such in bloody distance’, meaning that he is his enemy and a deadly one. The main reason that Macbeth wishes the killing of Banquo is because the ‘weird sisters’ predicted

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay
View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

that ‘Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none’. So Macbeth is more concerned with Fleance than with Banquo because the witches said that Banquo’s descendants would become kings. The final innocents to suffer are the family of Macduff, his wife and two sons.

To punish Macduffs’ treachery he has his family brutally slaughtered in their home, ‘The castle of Macduff I will surprise, seize upon Fife, give to th’edge o’th sword, his wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line’. A lesser-considered victim of Macbeth is his doting wife, Lady Macbeth. For the play to be a true tragedy the main character has to have a flaw, Macbeth is no exception. Macbeths’ fatal flaw is his ‘vaulting ambition’; this is what pushes him on into Duncan’s chamber and even Banquo recognises it when they come across the witches, ‘look how our partner’s rapt’.

Lady Macbeth acts upon his fatal flaw and spurs him on, and even mocks him when he falters, ‘ art not without ambition’. In the letter, that Macbeth wrote he addressed her as, ‘my dearest partner of greatness’, and possibly an indication of the influence Lady Macbeth already exerts on his life. Lady Macbeth appears to become the corporeal catalyst for the predictions, the witches may plant the seeds of dreams, desire and destiny, but it is the unstinting allegiance and support of the single-minded Lady that finally persuades Macbeth into committing an act of regicide.

The persuasion scene’ Act 1, Scene 7, Macbeth’s soliloquy clearly shows that he is struggling with his conscience, ‘as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself’. Shakespeare uses this soliloquy so that the audience can see Macbeth has a conscience, but is also easily led by the powerful Lady Macbeth. In using the adjective ‘vaulting’ the playwright personifies ambition and manages to externalise Macbeth’s fatal flaw. This allows the flaw to become more real and palpable for the audience.

In the end he can only come up with a reason for killing Duncan and it his ‘vaulting ambition’. As soon as Lady Macbeth enters Macbeth tries to show defiance to her strong persona; ‘we will proceed no further in this business’. He attempts to put his foot down, but Lady Macbeth berates her husband for his lack of conviction. She questions his love for her; she mocks him, saying ‘was the hope drunk wherein you dressed yourself? ‘ Saying that he is less than a man, and calls him a ‘coward’. This line also personifies hope, indicating that Macbeth had previously given her a reason to hope for him to become king.

She uses a lot of rhetoric when first addressing Macbeth, she bombards him with questions, making him feel less of a man for saying he will not kill his king. She plays upon his mind very cleverly; her vernacular is very ‘basic’. She gets to the point using blunt and shocking language, ‘dashed the brains out’, whereas Macbeth uses euphemisms, ‘I am settled, and bend up each corporal agent to this terrible feat’. Lines 60-72 shows Lady Macbeth describing her

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay