Macbeth: Darkness, Evil and Tragedy
Macbeth is a play full of darkness, evil, and tragedy. It is the story of a
man who goes against his conscience and commits a horrible deed which leads to
his destruction and loss of everything he has around him. This includes the
relationship he has with his wife, Lady Macbeth. In the end, he can blame no one
At the beginning of the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have a very strong
relationship and this deteriorates later.
Act 1 Scene 5 is a key scene which shows just how close Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
were at the beginning of the play; it shows their original relationship. Macbeth
has written a letter to Lady Macbeth telling her of everything and in this
letter states algo that she helped him to get everything for him. The following
speech where Lady Macbeth doubts that he can get to the title of King “he is too
full of the milk of human kindness” shows just how close they were. It
establishes the fact that she knew him so well, she knew what he was like and it
emphasises the closeness of their relationship. She speaks of how he has enough
ambition but not enough courage. His “overiding ambition” is not enough. When
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth speak, they speak to eachother with such closeness and
bond; he calls her his “dearest chuck”, his “partner of greatness”. She knows
that he is too weak to do anything and states her position in the murder “leave
the rest to me”.
In Act 1, Scene 7 establishes the force and power that Lady Macbeth posseses
over her husband. Upon hearing of Macbeth’s decision not to kill Duncan, she is
outraged and starts to work her force and power upon him. She knows where he is
most vulnerable and attacks him at his weak spot. She strikes him at his manhood
and courage. This of course works on Macbeth and she knows that it will. No one
calls Macbeth a coward. She says that he is a coward and attacks his manliness.
“to be more than what you are, you would be so much more the man”. She
challenges his love for her and says that she would rather “dash the brains out”
of her own child than break such a promise as Macbeth has to her. Whether she
was bluffing, the imagery that Macbeth would have had in his mind at this point
would have been frightening. To have the brains “dashed out” of his own child.
Macbeth is so awed by this woman who is his wife, who has so much power that he
cannot believe it. At this point in the play, Shakespeare re-confirms just how
close the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is and that she has the
power and he listens to whatever she has to say. Lady Macbeth is s major
influence on Macbeth, but this of course changes later.
After the murder, Macbeth is still carrying the daggers and he seems to be quiet
and uneasy. Lady Macbeth has to clean up what he has done wrong and has to
return the daggers herself. Lady Macbeth is still very much in control. Here,
Shakespeare defines both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s strong and weak characters.
Lady Macbeth being the strong one yet as a duo, he tones them down to be nothing
but two whispering, frightened villains.
Later on, when Macduff discovers the body of Duncan, Macbeth acts suspiciously
and draws attention to himself. It is then that Lady Macbeth has to help him out
and draw the attention away from him and to her by fainting. She does this later
too, during the banquet scene. Lady Macbeth is always there to clean up after
Macbeth and it shows that she is very concerned with him and he must not reveal
himself. She tells him not to let himself be revealed.
In Act 3 Scene 2, the further deterioration of Macbeth and in particular, his
relationship with Lady Macbeth is emphasised. Here, Lady Macbeth’s character is
shown to be a lonely woman who once knew everything that was going on in her
life with Macbeth; she played a part in everything. She longs once again to have
the relationship that she had with her husband, having a strong influence on him.
She wants to know what is going on. He does not specifically tell her what is to
be done but just hints that a “deed is to be done”. This scene clearly shows
what has become of their relationship. It is on a decline. They are no longer
partners as Macbeth once said; his “dearest partner”. They have swapped
positions. She has lost the power that she once had and Macbeth has gained a
power which he never had.
The banquet scene, apart from showing the guilt that Macbeth carries with him
presents once again that Lady Macbeth is very alert and knows how to draw
attention away from Macbeth, who fears the ghost of Banquo. She tells them to
leave and she has once again saved himself from revealing himself, she has
protected him again and this presents us with the fact that she still loves him
and cares for him and wants to protect him. Something that Macbeth cannot give
to her in return.
The sleepwalking scene in which Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and reveals her guilt
and terror of what she has done is a contrast to what her character was like
before. She was powerful and now she is so guilt ridden that she is at the state
of sleepwalking. It presents us with an irony. In Act 2, where they have
murdered Duncan she states that “a little bit of water shall clear us of this
deed” and yet during her sleepwalking she says “out damn spot, out” and tries so
hard to remove the blood. It proves the point that everything is not as easy as
it seems. This woman who was once so powerful is now nothing more than a scared
villain and although Lady Macbeth knew this about Macbeth, he doesn’t seem to
realise it about her.
The major scene in which the changes in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship
is shown is in Act 5 where he is told of Lady Macbeth’s death. This scene shows
just what the relationship has resulted to and the grief that he feels. The
quote “she should have died hereafter” tells us that Macbeth is grieving and
that he has lost all that he has. His wife, his “dearest chuck” and “dearest
partner in greatness” has just died and he feels nothing. In contrast to
Macduff’s reaction to hearing of his wife’s death, Macbeth is mild. His
following speech “tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow” shows his weariness and his
realisation that he has no future and that he has lost everything he ever had.
He uses two metaphors about life. One of a “flickering candle” and the other
“that life is just a series of phases”. Shakespeare uses these to show what
Macbeth’s life has become.
Macbeth is a play that shows just what can happen when evil and strong ambition
get involved. You deteriorate and in the process, can lose everything you have,
including the relationship with that of your dearest wife.