Macbeth: Lady MacBeth
Lady MacBeth is one of Shakespeare’s greatest and most intriguing female
characters. She is evil, seductive, and witch-like all at the same time.
However, during the play we see her in two different ways. At the time when we
first meet her, she is a brutally violent, power wanting witch, and later on she
turns to a shameful suicidal grieving woman.
At the beginning of the MacBeth, Lady MacBeth is very savage and vicious.
She thinks nothing of killing King Duncan. She has no sense of what is wrong
and right, and believes that it is perfectly moral to do the deed of murder.
She states that to not go through with the deed would be horrible to yourself,
and that you would be a coward in your own eyes.
“Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament
of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem,”
She states that if she was MacBeth and did not jump at this perfect opportunity,
that if a child, being fed at her breast, where as Duncan is, king, she would
tear it from her and “dash’d the brains out” to have the opportunity MacBeth
does. This shows how mad and sadistic she was. She had absolutely no self-
conscience, and thought nothing about the wrong they were soon to commit.
Later on, after the murders, she, unlike MacBeth, still shows no signs
of a conscience. She is very cool and collected, while MacBeth hallucinates and
goes temporarily mad. Lady MacBeth on the other hand, takes everything calmly.
She takes the daggers back to the King’s room, smears blood on the drunken
guards, and attempts to destroy all evidence of MacBeth ever being there. She
knows what needs to be done and does it without any hesitation or fear.
However, it is later on in the story, that it is revealed to us that
Lady MacBeth’s conscience is strong. When sleep walking one night, Lady MacBeth
(seemingly somewhat insane) begins blabbering about spots of blood on her hands.
“Out damned spot! out, I say! One; two: why, then ’tis time
to do’t Hell is murky! Fie, my lord – fie! a soldier and
When at first she believes that “a little water clears us of this deed”, and now
she can smell the blood on her hands still, and “all the perfumes of Arabia will
not sweeten this little hand”. She now realizes the consequences of what she
has done. She knows that the sin will be on her soul forever, and that nothing
will be able to cleanse it. She realizes “What’s done cannot be undone”.
But this can not be redemption. She has done the deed and must expect
the consequences. Her wrong doing has been too much, she has committed the
mortal sin. Though she now realizes it (even this is skeptical, since she was
sleep-walking at the time), she has still the deed on her soul. It can never be
totally cleansed, therefore Lady MacBeth can never have total redemption.
Lady MacBeth is a complex character. She is seen as two totally
different people as the play progresses. At first, she is crazy about getting
the power of the King. She is brutish and sadistic in both the things she says
and does. But as the play progresses, she begins to understand the consequences
of her actions, and goes slightly mad from these thoughts. She can never be
totally redeemed of her mortal sin, and realizes this. It is perhaps this, that
gives her the most redemption of all.