On Lady Macbeth

During Act III of Macbeth, the play shifts its course slightly; we see Macbeth no longer succumbing to Lady Macbeth’s provocative speeches and plans. Now, Macbeth has taken control of the situation, as his speeches are a lot more powerful and contain more than just confusion or remorse. In the scene with the Murderers, we see him as a devious persuader who convinces the men to kill Banquo. Meanwhile, especially in the Banquet scene, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a wife who wants to keep the guests entertained and when she does speak to Macbeth, she wants to forget about the death of Duncan and her speeches themselves show traces of denial and some elements of fear. Thus, it is evident in Macbeth’s speeches that he is taking control of the situation at hand and is responsible for the actions made, while Lady Macbeth’s speeches show less involvement and importance in the plot at this stage.

The first two major occurrences where we see Lady Macbeth greatly influence Macbeth’s actions is when she waits for him to come back after the slaughter of Duncan and fainting when Macbeth’s motives were about to be put to the test. As she waits for Macbeth, she opens the scene with the soliloquy “That which hath made me drunk hath me bold” and lines 7–11 show that she has planned every detail of Duncan’s murder and she doesn’t care what happens to them; a part of her perhaps cold and evil behavior. When Macbeth returns and talks about the “noises” or signs that he has done something dreadfully wrong, she merely says, “These deeds must not thought after these ways, so it will make us mad” She does not let it bother her; what is done is done. Later on, before they go to sleep, she boldly tells Macbeth to go asleep such that nobody would notice they are awake; she wants to keep this whole issue under control and Macbeth, for that matter.

Again, Lady Macbeth takes hold of the situation when she “supposedly” faints in Act III: iii. In lines 135–137 of Macbeths preceding speech, “Who could refrain that had a heart to love, and in the heart courage to make love’s known?” Lady Macbeth instantly senses that Macbeth might admit to Duncan’s murder to live the suggested honorable courage in his speech because she probably knew that he could be carried away by the moment.

However, all of this changes in Act III of the play. In Act III:I, p. 85, Macbeth’s soliloquy shows that he has started to doubt Banquo’s character and whether he could trust him or not. By the end of the speech, lines 75–77, we see Macbeth has already decided to kill Banquo and states that he was destined by fate to resort to such extremity by killing anyone being a threat to his regency.

Later on the scene, when Macbeth meets with the Murderers, he skilfully convinces them that “that is was [Banquo], in the times past, which held you so under fortune, which you thought had been our innocent self” He makes it clear to them that by killing Banquo, their revenge would be fulfilled and they cannot wait any longer, “having their patience so predominant in their nature that they can let this go.” Also, when he senses on p. 89 that the First Murderer is showing some doubt in sacrificing their lives for killing Banquo in line 145, he quickly changes the subject and says that their courage enlightens them for doing this.

As Macbeth goes on to meet Lady Macbeth, he assures her that “we have only scorched the snake, not killed it”. His tone is self-realized and assured; he warns Lady Macbeth of this act of horror by killing the king will always haunt them. When he mentions to her that something dreadful is about to happen and she questions what it is, he calmly tells her, “Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, til thou applaud the deed”. This could perhaps signify that Macbeth knows Lady Macbeth has some kind of evil tendencies and that she would enjoy or rejoice some deed of this sort. This also asserts that Macbeth has the upper hand in this situation and there on, while Lady Macbeth would symbolize the ideal wife who gives him a pat on the back for “what he did at work today”.

This phenomenon is also observed in the banquet setting, where the whole scene revolves around a main Macbeth and a supporting Lady Macbeth. When Macbeth starts to see the ghost of Banquo, he is thrown into a fit of near delirium and hysteria, and cannot control the flow of actions or speech. Lady Macbeth tries to please her guests and keep them calm, like in line 65–67,”Pray you, keep seat. The fit is momentary; upon a thought, he will again be well”. One can tell that Macbeth’s apparent visions of the ghost and its accompanying speeches reverberate greatly on the guests, as Lennox curiously wants to know what Macbeth sees, as shown in line 142–143 on p. 107. However, Macbeth does at one point realize that his guests are rather disturbed by his behavior and asks them not to “muse at me, my most worthy friends… Come, love and health to all…Give me some wine. Fill full”.

Macbeth has brought the dinner atmosphere back to a jovial and pleasant mood again when they toast. Lady Macbeth, in all of this, is silent and tries to pacify Macbeth’s erratic behavior. At the end of the scene, Macbeth is determined to find out his fate from the Weird Sisters because he knows that he is too far now in his quest for power and that nothing can bring him back to being good. All that Lady Macbeth replies with is that you definitely need some sleep, honey.

Thus, by the end of Act III, the crown of control has been passed over from Lady Macbeth to Macbeth. No longer just being confused and easily swayed, there is determination and realization in his voice, while Lady Macbeth is simply there to support him. If Macbeth cannot turn back to goodness and Lady Macbeth does show some sign of denial and regret. Why cannot she convince him to turn back?

I wrote this in high school.

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