Throughout “Macbeth”, the character of Lady Macbeth changes very dramatically. She is presented to the audience as power hungry and to an extent manipulative at the beginning to the play and by the end is almost unrecognisable by the audience due to the extensive change in her mental state. During her planning phase for the murdering of Duncan, Lady Macbeth’s authoritative behaviour towards Macbeth’s second thoughts of undergoing such an act would have been very alien to the Jacobean audience who would have been accustomed to the female of the house being inferior to the male as they were a highly patriarchal society. However, she was a woman who did not think twice about plotting to kill the King of Scotland.
Once Macbeth had done the “dirty deed”, Lady Macbeth’s character, previously compelled as evil and controlling, begins to dismantle and her connection with both sanity and the “spirits” are broken. She become extremely scared, more insane than at the beginning of the play and towards the end, the audience are told she commits suicide. Different people who portrayed her character with different emotions had played the role and character of Lady Macbeth. She has been notably played as being insane, manipulative, devious or dictatorial. While Lady Macbeth is conveyed with radical personal changes, her relationship at the start of the play with Macbeth is one with strong ties and mutual respect; this is exemplified through the letter that Lady Macbeth receives from Macbeth in which he referred to her as “My dearest partner in greatness”.
This could be the audiences’ first interaction with Shakespeare’s confusing play that almost ‘manipulates’ the audience into thinking one thing and performing another; an example to show this are the attitudes of the Macbeth’s with Macbeth himself being a strong, good-willed soldier progressively turning into the monster that Lady Macbeth begins as and progressively becomes insane by the end, so-much-so she commits suicide. Lady Macbeth’s character is first formed in Act I, Scene V, the scene opens with her reading a letter from her husband, its content is full of thoughts and tellings of the meeting with the witches earlier that day. Lady Macbeth begins by talking about how her husband now has a goal and addresses his personality. Understandably she would like this prophecy to transpire and there is no question that she would be willing to help him gain the title of king.
Lady Macbeth comes to the conclusion that to become king Macbeth must kill Duncan. When we first see Lady Macbeth, she is already undergoing the plotting phase of King Duncan’s murder with the spirits. The audience immediately, through her theatrical portrayal, that she is much stronger, more devious and more outgoing than her husband and she seems to be fully aware of this and knows that she will have to entice Macbeth into committing murder with becoming king as the result. During Act 1, Scene V, Lady Macbeth tells the ghostly spirits to “unsex me here”. This shows us that she knows that Macbeth is not man enough to successfully carry through with the act so almost requests for the spirits to remove her femininity so that she would be able to carry out the murder herself; this further exemplifies Lady Macbeth’s seriousness towards Duncan’s murder.
This comparison between gender and power is very important to Lady Macbeth’s character as her husband implies that she is almost a masculine soul that is inhabiting a woman’s body, which seems to link perfectly with Lady Macbeth’s unusual masculinity and her ambition with violence. Through her example, Shakespeare implies that women are able to be as cruel as men, but due to social inequalities, during that era, they are unable to pursue what they feel. Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband perfectly by suspending his objections; when Macbeth hesitates to the go through with original plan for the murder, she confronts and questions his manhood which at the beginning of the play, the audience is shown during his fierce and noble battle. Within the first two paragraphs of this scene (lines 13 – 28) Lady Macbeths undertones are of a willingness to use the atributes of her personality to help this title become within reach of Macbeth. Shakespear uses soliquy here to enphasise Lady Macbeths intent for Duncans death this also shows the reader that this is of great importance to her. Lady Macbeth states Macbeths present titles ie glamis and cawdor then says that he will get what is promised to him by the witches <13-14> but she is afraid of the qualities of Macbeths character that could stand in the way of their future.
Her worries are congregated around Macbeths kind nature and lack of willingness to be underhanded and deceiving, it seems she has the traits that are worthy of a murder and worries that he might dash any real hope that the pair have for royalty. Lady Macbeth has the view that her husband (on his own) would only carry out this devious plan if it were above board and fair. Again in soliquy she says “Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valour of my tongue all that impeeds from the golden round.” She wants him to hurry home so that she has time to persuade him to carry out this false-hearted Although Lady Macbeth seems scary and evil to the audience, through her behaviour around Macbeth, she portrays herself to actually be a loving wife. Macbeth too feels bad after the “dirty deed” so Lady Macbeth stays with him instead of leaving as she cares for him and, as we find out later, she feels the same way.
Once Macbeth had returned from killing Duncan, Lady Macbeth talks to him about how he should not feel guilt as “what has been done cannot be undone”. By saying that “These deeds must not be thought … so it will make us mad”, she shows Macbeth that the more he thinks about what he had done, the more remorseful he feels, that the more thoughts he puts will only cause him to become angry at himself for what he had done. when Macbeth says that he thinks he has heard voices, she too becomes to feel uneasy and begins to overthink the situation. However, she hides her concerns and again becomes more powerful than Macbeth in that she takes control of the situation, trying once again to taunt him with implications that he is unmanly, unable to regulate his emotions and oversee what he had to go through to finally obtain the title of King. Throughout the play, the audience is able to recognise that within their relationship, at any given time there is always a sense of dominnace from either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth; one of them has control over the other.
To exemplify this, during Act II, Scene II, even though they are both terribley nervous she is the more controlled of the pair and is able to conceal her true feelings; again showing the audience that she is not entirely devious as she stays calm in order to make sure Macbeth is the same.