4.2) The character of Lady Macbeth

Who is Lady Macbeth? Macbeth’s wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position
Early in the play what does she seem like in the relationship? She seems to be the stronger and more ruthless of the two as she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize the crown
What happens to her after the bloodshed begins? She falls victim to guilt and madness to an even greater degree than her husband works
To what extent does her conscience affect her? She commits suicide
How do Lady Macbeth and Macbeth feel for one another at the beginning of the play? Quite passionately for one another and Lady Macbeth exploits her sexual hold over Macbeth as a means to persuade him to commit the murder.
What seems to numb Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s feelings for one another? Their shared alienation from the world and partnership in crime does not bring them closer together but seems to numb their feelings for one another
Why is lady Macbeth an important character? She influences Macbeth especially at the start of the play
What is Lady Macbeth like? She is ambitious and doesn’t mind committing terrible crimes to get what she wants
How does Lady Macbeth change over the course of the play? 1) At the beginning she is dominant and confident – she persuades Macbeth that killing Duncan is the best thing to do2) Once Macbeth has committed the murder she is slowly driven mad by guilt. Macbeth distances himself from her and she kills herself because she can’t bear to live with what they’ve done
Quote to suggest Lady Macbeth is cruel ‘And fill me from the crown to the toe topfull/Of direst cruelty’
Quote to suggest Lady Macbeth is cunning ‘look like th’innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under ‘t.’
Quote to suggest Lady Macbeth is disturbed ‘She is troubled with thick coming fancies’
What does Lady Macbeth say about Macbeth? He is ‘too full o’th’milk of human kindness’ – she thinks that his goodness makes him a ‘coward’ and stops him achieving his ambitions
What does Lady Macbeth inmediately assume once she receives Macbeth’s letter? That they need to kill Duncan
What does she appeal to the spirit world to do? ‘Unsex’ her and fill her with ‘direst cruelty’ because she thinks that no ordinary woman would plan the murder
How does Lady Macbeth use her husbands weaknesses to influence him? She uses his ambition and fear of being seen as a coward to manipulate him into killing Duncan
What does Lady Macbeth link masculinity to? Writer’s techniques – symbolism Strength and violence
What does Shakespeare show about women? Writer’s techniques – symbolism They can be just as ruthless and cold hearted as men
Who comes up with the cunning plot to drug Duncan’s servants and frame them for the murder? Lady Macbeth – this shows she’s clever as well as cruel and heartless
What does Lady Macbeth do when Duncan’s murder is discovered? She faints
Why does Lady Macbeth faint? 1) could be a pretence to draw attention away from Macbeth’s unconvincing speech2) She is taking advantage of the way women are seen at the time and uses the stereotype of a weak woman overcome by shock to hide the reality of her cruel, cold-hearted nature
What else does Lady Macbeth cover up? Macbeth’s strange behaviour when he thinks he sees Banquo’s ghost – she’s the one in control of the situation
What does Shakespeare use Lady Macbeth to explore? Gender and power
What were women traditionally seen as? Kinder and weaker than men
What does Lady Macbeth say she would kill if she’d sworn to do it? Kill her own baby
Who does Shakespeare contrast Lady Macbeth with? Lady Macduff who is a caring mother
How does Lady Macbeth have a softer side? She says she couldn’t kill Duncan herself because he reminded her of her father. This shows she is not as cold hearted as she appears
What does Lady Macbeth think women are made weak by? Their maternal instincts
What does Lady Macbeth tell the spirits to do? ‘Come to my woman’s breasts/ And fake my milk for gall’ – she wants to lose her femininity
What does Lady Macbeth’s power lie in? Manipulating people – this shows that non-violent female traits are just as powerful as violent male ones
Theme – Ambition – Why can Lady Macbeth only achieve her ambitions through Macbeth? Macbeth is set in a violent, male dominated society
Who is it at first who struggles with guilty conscience? Macbeth
At the end of the play what happens to Lady Macbeth? She is driven mad by guilt and status sleepwalking
How does the doctor describe Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking? ‘A great perturbation in nature’ because her mind is so disturbed that it’s affected her ability to sleep soundly
How does the way Lady Macbeth speaks reflect her state of mind? At the beginning she speaks confidently in verse but by the end her speech is made up of mad ramblings and repetitions – ‘Come, come, come, come, give me your hand’ – it shows she’s lost all self control
What does Lady Macbeth keep doing in her sleep? She keeps washing her hands in the hope she can wash away her feelings of guilt just as easily as the blood after Duncan’s murder – ‘Out, damned spot!’
How much do guilt and isolation affect Lady Macbeth? She kills herself and can’t live with what she’s done
Writer’s techniques – symbolism – sleepwalking Sleepwalking was thought to be unnatural in Shakespeare’s time – sleep is the ‘Balm of hurt minds’ so the fact that Lady Macbeth can’t sleep peacefully emphasises her madness
How does Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s relationship change? 1) At the beginning, their marriage seems loving and passionate – Macbeth calls Lady Macbeth ‘my dearest partner of greatness’ 2) As the play develops it is clear that Lady Macbeth dominates Macbeth – she manipulates him into killing Duncan and covers up his strange behaviour when he sees Banquo’s ghost 3) As Macbeth reveals less about his plans to his wife, Lady Macbeth becomes increasingly anxious and alone. Even though she’s domineering at the beginning she can’t cope without her husband