Macbeth: Power Of Lady Macbeth
Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as a construct to explore the effects of power in a women’s hand as a threatening and disastrous force which is a consequence of her ambition deep rooted with desires in order for her to gain a higher rank in the patriarchy.
Lady Macbeth’s unorthodox ambition has been present since her first soliloquy where she demands the supernatural to follow her commands highlighting her esteemed voice which is even respected by the supernatural. The fact she orders the witches to “come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts unsex me here” reveals how she does not even fear the supernatural possibly because her desires have made her so heart blind, she can no longer distinguish between right and wrong as she has no shame in committing this act. However, another interpretation could be how she is forced to suppress her emotions in order to guarantee the death of King Duncan, which shows the how she would do anything for Macbeth to be king. This is shocking to a Jacobean audience as it was accepted by society that women were the least powerful, but Lady Macbeth has completely substituted the view by showing her will to continue. Shakespeare has done this as Macbeth lacked the motivation to kill King Duncan hence wise Lady Macbeth is the exalted force to change his views where she tempts him into doing this act, foreshadowing her might to change even the greatest warriors who has gotten the title of “thane of Cawdor”. The repetition of the verb “Come” reflects her determination to gain power whether it is moral or not, reflecting the length she will go just to gain the title of the queen. Towards the Jacobean era this act would have been considered disgusting as it was a norm to believe that God has appointed the natural order and the fact Lady Macbeth wants to change this is controversy which exposes her grim side. Shakespeare has also chosen to show Lady Macbeth summoning “spirits” to “unsex” her in order to show the audience that she is going against God where she calls supernatural “spirits” to gain even more power, and the audience would expect to see this power used in evil ways which will eventually lead to her downfall. In conclusion, Lady’s Macbeths will continue to carry on her deeds, reflecting how she will firmly stand on what she believes in, portraying her as an ambitious and mighty character.
Shakespeare also uses Lady Macbeth as example of corruption, perhaps to reveal how she may be powerful in terms of controlling others; but she lacks the strength to control herself. The main reason why Shakespeare has deliberately done this is to expose her fragile weakness, and by doing this we see the great downfall of Lady Macbeth which comes in the form of justice to a Jacobean audience. This is seen in the line “thick night”, “smoke of hell”, “the blanket of the dark”. By using semantic fields of darkness, it is evident she has been manipulated by her powers, and it is almost driving her towards madness. Shakespeare has done this to make it seem as if Lady Macbeth has been too interested in power and ironically it is her power which results into her tragic death. The word “hell” is interesting because Lady Macbeth knows she will go to hell but she continues to strive in her corrupt ways; to a Jacobean and a modern audience, this would be an atrocious act because it was a norm to follow a religious life style, but the fact that Lady Macbeth has chosen to live an opposite life style reveals how she has been misguided. In addition she misleads Macbeth by forcing him to “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it”. This metaphor has been used to show Lady Macbeth as a two faced character, and it proves that she has been deceived because she is constantly switching her personality, possibly because she has been confused. The word “serpent” has biblical connotations of devils and the fact she aspire to be like the devil is seen as an monstrous crime to commit even to a modern day reader which foreshadows her transgression.
However towards the end, Shakespeare uses Lady Macbeth as an example to show how women who have power in their hands will lead to destruction where she subconsciously submits to guilt, despite her controlling attitude as well as her deep ignited ambition. This is seen in the line, “Out, damn spot! Out I say!” Here Lady Macbeth is clearly sleep walking due to her remorse which reveals how she cannot control herself, and to a Jacobean audience sleep walking was seen to be a unnatural act which only happened to those who were possessed. Furthermore, Lady Macbeth says “what will these hands ne’er be clean?” The pronoun “these” suggests the hands do not belong to her, and she wants to distance herself from herself both physically and spiritually. However, this is ironic as Lady Macbeth said in the early stages “what’s cannot be undone” so she knew the consequences yet she fails to deal with them suggesting her lack of power.