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The play Macbeth was written by William Shakespeare in the 17th century. Throughout the play we meet a variety of female characters, including Macbeth. There are many scenarios in the play where Lady Macbeth has proven to be a powerful, commanding and dominant female character. In act one scene 5, Shakespeare writes “I may pour my spirits in thine ear”, in this quote we notice Lady Macbeth mentioning she wants to poison her husband, Macbeth. This is a prime example of power displayed by Lady Macbeth, as women in the 17th century wouldn’t never have even considered to kill their husband. Another excellent example of Lady Macbeths power is when she says, “unsex me here” meaning for her feminine side to be stripped away, she wants to be seen as a woman with power. This reflects on how powerful Lady Macbeth truly is as in the 17th century women would never have dreamed to think or say this. At times throughout the play Lady Macbeth seems to be in complete control in her relationship with Macbeth, as she uses persuasive techniques on Macbeth to get things her way and what she wants. This further illustrates how powerful she is, as typically in the 17th century men were in control of their wife’s, as women didn’t have a say.
On Macbeth’s day of success, Shakespeare introduced Lady Macbeth by reading out a letter from her husband. In the 17th century, many women didn’t have the confidence and power which Lady Macbeth had, this made her character very abnormal in comparison to other women. In act one scene five, Shakespeare mentions “spirits”, meaning poison, Shakespeare mentions “spirits” a number of time during this part of the play which shows Lady Macbeths further manipulation and power. Although this could also mean the courage needed to wipe out Macbeth humanity. This also has links to the witches, as they were another powerful female character in the play. Lady Macbeth also uses a commanding tone, we know this as Lady Macbeth says, “come you spirits”, In this quote Shakespeare uses an imperative, which creates that commanding and powerful tone for Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare yet again uses another imperative when Lady Macbeth says, “stop” to again make a commanding tone which Lady Macbeth displays during the play.
In act one scene seven Shakespeare writes, “From this time such I account thy love coward”. In this quote we notice Lady Macbeth calling her husband a “coward”. The adjective “coward” is ironic as Macbeth was known to be a ruthless war hero, “Thane of Cawdor”, The weak woman calling the “brave” man a coward. Shakespeare uses first person when Lady Macbeth calls her husband a coward. By Lady Macbeth calling Macbeth a coward, she is degrading him, damaging his self-esteem and also his mental state. In this quote Lady Macbeth is also attacking Macbeths masculinity as she is calling a very powerful man a coward. Although Lady Macbeth loves Macbeth but doesn’t want to love a coward and emotional blackmail keeps Macbeth in love with Lady Macbeth. This further highlights the power Lady Macbeth withholds as women would never have called their husband a coward in the 17th century, it would never have been thought of.Â Although Lady Macbeth thinks it is acceptable to call one of the most powerful man in Scotland a coward. During the play we see Lady Macbeth and Macbeth love, care and respect each other from time to time, although their love begins to fade away as Macbeth becomes more and more emotionless for Lady Macbeth. In the play we only meet very few female characters, will reflects on the time period this play is set. As typically in the 17th century men had lots more power than women. Therefore, for Lady Macbeth to call her husband a coward it is completely unacceptable in that era.
Shakespeare mentions in act one scene 5 “was the hope drunk, wherein you dressed yourself”, during this quote we see Lady Macbeth using manipulation against Macbeth as she is saying to him that he is being careless and hopeless and is breaking him down and breaking down his masculinity. Shakespeare also uses a metaphor in this quote to show the audience that Macbeth has more hope in their plan, but Macbeth is also contradicting himself and begins to feel guilty about the whole situation. This can also show Lady Macbeths power in their relationship, as Lady Macbeth finds it acceptable to insult her husband’s masculinity. In the 17th century women never got the opportunity to speak like this to their husband, and certainly not manipulating their husband. Again this shows that in their relationship Lady Macbeth has a higher role than Macbeth as she can insult Macbeth and get away with it. Lady Macbeth can also handle difficult situations better than Macbeth as shown when Macbeth already begins to feel the guilt.
Throughout the play Lady Macbeth maintains control of her relationship, we rarely see Macbeth regaining his control which he once had. Shakespeare uses dramatic method in act 2 scene 2 when he writes “give me the daggers”, in this quote we notice Shakespeare using an imperative to show to the audience Lady Macbeths power. We also see Lady Macbeth taking control and taking the daggers off her husband in the murder. This is another example of her power as she is regaining control of the situation and sorts it out. Macbeth, who is at the top of the great chain of being, is known to be a man with power, although it seems Lady Macbeth has taken full advantage of her husband by claiming his power. This can also reflect on how men are typically seen as a higher class than women in the 17th century, as men handled any situations and women were told what to do. In this incident Lady Macbeth has taken control and sorted the problem with the daggers, which again shows how independent, demanding and powerful she is in their relationship. Macbeth is letting his wife take this power, which shows to the audience that their love may be falling apart.
Shakespeare at the start of act 3 scene 4 presents Lady Macbeth as being submissive, it is like her husband Is in control of Lady Macbeth, just like every man was in control of their wife In the 17th century. Although, when Lady Macbeth says, “pronounce it for me sir, to all our friends, for my heart speaks, they are welcome”, we notice that Lady Macbeth giving Macbeth full control of the situation, as she is letting him have all the attention. We know this as Lady Macbeth addresses Macbeth as “sir” to lower and decrease her status as a gesture to highlight how compliant and caring she can be to him. In the 17th century, the man was seen higher than women, although at times through the play we see Lady Macbeth being presented with more power than Macbeth, but in this case Macbeth has been gifted the attention and power from his wife, which we rarely see throughout the play. This also shows how much power Lady Macbeth has, as she is able take and give her power, throughout the play she is the only female character that we meet who can do this. Which also shows how typically men are of a higher standard than women in that era.
Throughout act 3 scene 4 Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as a powerful character, although we don’t see Lady Macbeth using physical power we definitely see her using power verbally, when she says “are you a man”, referring to her husband Macbeth. Through the use of rhetorical questioning we see Lady Macbeth questioning her husband while insulting him at the same time. In the 17th century, it wouldn’t have been seen the women questioning and even insulting the men. This further implies that sense of power on Lady Macbeths character as she is in the high class position where she can make these comments and insults on her husband. We also notice Lady Macbeth commanding her friends when she states, “sit worthy friends”, in this quote Shakespeare uses short command as we see Lady Macbeth once again using her verbal power. Therefore, this shows that Lady Macbeth is a powerful female character as in the 17th century the women didn’t give out any form of command at the table. This further highlights that in their relationship Lady Macbeth has more power as not only is she insulting her husband she is also giving commands.
Lady Macbeth is presented as a powerful character throughout the play, as in act 3 scene four we notice another example of Lady Macbeths power as she is being ashamed of her husband, when Lady Macbeth states, “Fie for shame!”, In this quote we notice Shakespeare using an exclamatory sentence while giving the sense of power and confidence for Lady Macbeth. As Lady Macbeth is being ashamed of her husband it gives the audience and her character that stronger sense of power, as women in that time era wouldn’t have even considered to be ashamed of their husband, as men were seen with a higher role than women, although in this case it is almost like the roles have changed dramatically and it is Lady Macbeth putting shame on her husband. Lady Macbeths use of insult that she uses when shaming her husband, shows how she is a character with power, as once again women would have never been given the role where they felt they could give comment or insult their husband.
Throughout the play we Lady Macbeth is presented as a powerful female character, although there are times we see Lady Macbeths weaknesses. As in act 5 scene one and two, Shakespeare writes “I tell you yet again Banquo’s dead”, this is during one of Lady Macbeth sleepwalking episodes where we notice her reliving the murder. This implies that there is a weakness in Lady Macbeth, as she feels the guilt of the murder as shown through her sleepwalking. At the start of the play Lady Macbeth is presented with more power than many men in the play, although this is the start of her downfall in power. Also in act 5 scene one and two, Shakespeare writes “Mark of the devil” referring to Lady Macbeth as a witch, as in the 17th century women were stripped searched for any sort of marks including birth marks. They were then accused of being a witch or being able to do witchcraft. The witches are another powerful character we meet throughout the play. This further shows how men were seen as a higher class compared to women, as women were accused of being witches by men and could be killed if they found any marks.
In conclusion, Shakespeare has been portraying throughout the play that Lady Macbeth as a powerful and confident female character although we then notice that Lady Macbeth also has a weak side, which plays a huge role throughout the play. Although, Shakespeare presents women in the seventeenth century with no power and are under control of their husbands but in this case of Lady Macbeth she is presented as a powerful, manipulative and persuasive character. We know Lady Macbeth is a persuasive character as she lures Macbeth into killing King Duncan and is in more control of the murder. This can show how evil Lady Macbeth truly is and her power eventually exposes her weak side.
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