Macbeth – The Essay



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Macbeth – The Essay

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The essay title

  • The title of the essay we are going to be writing is:
  • part one
  • part two
  • part three
  • Analyse the character of Lady Macbeth in detail, looking closely at her relationship with her husband.
  • To what extent does she influence Macbeth in committing the murders?
  • What changes take place in her character during the play?
  • Analyse the character of Lady Macbeth in detail, looking closely at her relationship with her husband.
  • To what extent does she influence Macbeth in committing the murders?
  • What changes take place in her character during the play?
  • Analyse the character of Lady Macbeth in detail, looking closely at her relationship with her husband.
  • To what extent does she influence Macbeth in committing the murders?
  • What changes take place in her character during the play?
  • Analyse the character of Lady Macbeth in detail, looking closely at her relationship with her husband.
  • To what extent does she influence Macbeth in committing the murders?
  • What changes take place in her character during the play?

The essay title

  • In order to answer the question fully, we shall need to look at the scenes in which Lady Macbeth plays an important part.
  • Act One, Scene Five
  • Act One, Scene Seven
  • Act Two, Scene Two
  • Act Three, Scene Two
  • Act Three, Scene Four
  • Act Five, Scene One
  • Write a brief summary (one or two sentences) of what happens in each of these scenes.
  • Find out which these are.

Analysing the play

  • On the following slides you will find a detailed analysis of the six scenes in which Lady Macbeth plays an important role. Although we shall only be looking at the most significant parts of these scenes, make sure that you read them fully yourselves.
  • Before you start to plan your essay, you should read and study these scenes in detail. It is only once you have done this that you will be able to decide what position you are going to take on the essay question.
  • As you read and study the scenes, try to keep the essay question in mind.

Act One, Scene Five, lines 1–12

  • Enter Macbeth’s Wife alone with a letter.
  • Lady Macbeth: They met me in the day of success, and I have learned by the perfectest report they have more in them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire to question them further, they made themselves air, into which they vanished. Whiles I stood rapt in the wonder of it, came missives from the King, who all-hailed me Thane of Cawdor; by which title before these Weird Sisters saluted me, and referred me to the coming on of time with, ‘Hail, king that shalt be.’ This have I thought good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou mightest not lose the dues of rejoicing by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell.
  • The first time we see Lady Macbeth, she is reading her husband’s letter. We can only guess at her reaction.
  • Macbeth has written to her so that she can share his joy, and know that she is promised great things.

Act One, Scene Five, line 1–12

  • From the contents of this letter, what kind of relationship do you think Macbeth and his wife have?
  • Imagine you are Lady Macbeth and you have to wait longer for your husband’s arrival. Write your reply to him, describing your feelings about his news and thoughts on his return.
  • The actress playing Lady Macbeth needs to make a decision about how to read the letter. Do you think she is excited? Amazed? Curious? Why?

Act One, Scene Five, lines 13–28

  • Lady Macbeth:
  • Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
  • What thou art promis’d. Yet do I fear thy nature:
  • It is too full o’ the milk of human-kindness
  • To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
  • Art not without ambition, but without
  • The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly
  • That wouldst thou holily, wouldst not play false,
  • And yet wouldst wrongly win. Thou’dst have, great Glamis,
  • That which cries, ‘Thus thou must do’ if thou have it,
  • And that which rather thou dost fear to do
  • Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither,
  • That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,
  • And chastise with the valour of my tongue
  • All that impedes thee from the golden round,
  • Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
  • To have thee crown’d withal.
  • Now we see her reaction. He will be king.
  • She is worried that he is too kind to do what is needed. She uses the metaphor of ‘illness’ to describe this.
  • She will convince him to do all that is necessary to win the crown.

Act One, Scene Five, lines 36–52

  • Lady Macbeth: … The raven himself is hoarse
  • That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
  • Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
  • That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here
  • And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
  • Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood;
  • Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
  • That no compunctious visitings of nature
  • Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
  • The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
  • And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
  • Wherever, in your sightless substances,
  • You wait on nature’s mischief. Come, thick night,
  • And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
  • That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
  • Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
  • To cry, ‘Hold, hold!’
  • She has already decided that Duncan must die.
  • If her femininity is taken away, she can be cruel.
  • She is keen to feel no remorse. Ironic in view of what happens to her later.
  • She wants the night to come, and hide the crime from her and from heaven.

Act One, Scene Five, lines 36–52

Act One, Scene Five, lines 52–58

  • Enter Macbeth
  • Lady Macbeth:
  • Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!
  • Greater than both by the all-hail hereafter!
  • Thy letters have transported me beyond
  • This ignorant present, and I feel now
  • The future in the instant.
  • Macbeth: My dearest love,
  • Duncan comes here tonight.
  • Lady Macbeth: And when goes hence?
  • Macbeth:
  • Tomorrow, as he purposes.
  • As soon as her husband arrives, Lady Macbeth hails him by his new titles, and suggests the future possibilities.
  • Lady Macbeth asks when Duncan is leaving, so that she can make her deadly plans.
  • Macbeth’s very first words are about the King. He is coming to visit them that night.

Act One, Scene Five, lines 58–71

  • Lady Macbeth: O never
  • Shall sun that morrow see!
  • Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
  • May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
  • Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
  • Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower
  • But be the serpent under’t. He that’s coming
  • Must be provided for; and you shall put
  • This night’s great business into my dispatch;
  • Which shall to all our nights and days to come
  • Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.
  • Macbeth: We will speak further.
  • Lady Macbeth: Only look up clear;
  • To alter favour ever is to fear.
  • Leave all the rest to me.
  • Lady Macbeth: O never
  • Shall sun that morrow see!
  • Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
  • May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
  • Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
  • Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower
  • But be the serpent under’t. He that’s coming
  • Must be provided for; and you shall put
  • This night’s great business into my dispatch;
  • Which shall to all our nights and days to come
  • Macbeth: We will speak further.
  • Lady Macbeth: Only look up clear;
  • To alter favour ever is to fear.
  • Leave all the rest to me.
  • Lady Macbeth warns him that his face might give away his evil intentions. She uses the metaphor of a book that can be read.
  • She tells him that he should leave things to her.
  • Macbeth must learn to disguise his true intentions.
  • Which line shows an example of sibilance? Click again to see.
  • Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.

Act One, Scene Seven, lines 31–47

  • Macbeth:
  • We will proceed no further in this business …
  • Lady Macbeth: Was the hope drunk
  • Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
  • And wakes it now to look so green and pale
  • At what it did so freely? From this time
  • Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
  • To be the same in thine own act and valour
  • As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
  • Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
  • And live a coward in thine own esteem,
  • Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’,
  • Like the poor cat i’the adage?
  • Macbeth: Prithee peace.
  • I dare do all that may become a man;
  • Who dares do more is none.
  • Art thou afeard
  • green and pale
  • Macbeth:
  • We will proceed no further in this business …
  • Lady Macbeth: Was the hope drunk
  • Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
  • And wakes it now to look so green and pale
  • At what it did so freely? From this time
  • Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
  • To be the same in thine own act and valour
  • As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
  • Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
  • And live a coward in thine own esteem,
  • Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’,
  • Like the poor cat i’the adage?
  • Macbeth: Prithee peace.
  • I dare do all that may become a man;
  • Who dares do more is none.
  • As soon as his wife enters, Macbeth tells her he will not kill the King.
  • He defends himself after she questions his masculinity, telling her that he is manly.
  • There are three three-word phrases in Lady Macbeth’s attack that accuse Macbeth of being a coward. What are they? Click again to find out.
  • live a coward

Act One, Scene Seven, lines 47–61

  • Lady Macbeth: What beast was’t then
  • That made you break this enterprise to me?
  • When you durst do it, then you were a man
  • … I have given suck, and know
  • How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me;
  • I would while it was smiling in my face
  • Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
  • And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
  • Have done to this.
  • Macbeth: If we should fail?
  • Lady Macbeth: We fail!
  • But screw your courage to the sticking place,
  • And we’ll not fail ...
  • She accuses Macbeth of going back on his word, even though it was she who suggested the murder. Again, she questions his manhood.
  • She uses a horrific image of killing her baby to show how committed she is to the task.
  • Macbeth still fears failure.
  • She tells him he must have courage.

Act One, Scene Seven, lines 47–59

Act Two, Scene Two, lines 1–13

  • Lady Macbeth:
  • That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold
  • What hath quenched them hath given me fire. - Hark! - Peace!
  • It was the owl that shrieked, the fatal bellman
  • Which gives the stern’st good-night. He is about it.
  • The doors are open, and the surfeited grooms
  • Do mock their charge with snores; I have drugg’d their possets
  • That death and nature do content about them
  • Whether they live or die.
  • Macbeth (within): Who’s there? What, ho!
  • Lady Macbeth: … I laid their daggers ready;
  • He could not miss ’em. Had he not resembled
  • My father as he slept, I had done’t.
  • She is excited by the thought of the crime.
  • Lady Macbeth is afraid that Macbeth will not have committed the crime. She says she would have done it herself, if he had not looked like her father.
  • She tells us about her part in the crime – she has drugged the guards.

Act Two, Scene Two, lines 32–48

  • Macbeth:
  • … I had most need of blessing, and ‘Amen’
  • Stuck in my throat.
  • Lady Macbeth: These deeds must not be thought
  • After these ways; so, it will make us mad.
  • Macbeth:
  • Still it cried ‘Sleep no more!’ to all the house;
  • ‘Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor
  • Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more.’
  • Lady Macbeth:
  • Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
  • You do unbend your noble strength, to think
  • So brain-sickly of things. Go, get some water,
  • And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
  • Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
  • Macbeth is nervous so she tries to calm him. Ironically, she tells him not to think of it, or it will send him mad.
  • Macbeth continues to rant – he says he heard a voice warning him.
  • She tells him he is a coward and is angry he brought the daggers.
  • Find five qualities that Lady Macbeth exhibits here.

Act Two, Scene Two, lines 55–68

  • Lady Macbeth: … If he do bleed,
  • I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,
  • For it must seem their guilt. [Exit. Knock within.]
  • Macbeth: Whence is that knocking?
  • How is’t with me when every noise appals me?
  • What hands are here! Ha – they pluck out mine eyes!
  • Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
  • Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
  • The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
  • Making the green one red. [Enter Lady Macbeth.]
  • Lady Macbeth:
  • My hands are of your colour; but I shame
  • To wear a heart so white …
  • A little water clears us of this deed;
  • How easy it is then!
  • Macbeth refuses to return the daggers, so his wife takes over. She will smear the grooms’ faces with blood so they seem guilty.
  • Macbeth says that he will never be able to wash the blood off his hands.
  • Again, she questions his courage. Ironically, she thinks ‘a little water’ will clear away the crime.

Act Three, Scene Two, lines 4–28

  • Lady Macbeth: Nought’s had, all’s spent,
  • Where our desire is got without content.
  • ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy
  • Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.
  • [Enter Macbeth]
  • How now, my lord? Why do you keep alone,
  • Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
  • Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
  • With them they think on? Things without all remedy
  • Should be without regard; what’s done is done.
  • Macbeth:
  • We have scorch’d the snake, not killed it …
  • … Better be with the dead ...
  • Lady Macbeth: Come on,
  • Gentle my lord, sleek o’er your rugged looks,
  • Be bright and jovial with your guests tonight.
  • Lady Macbeth is starting to feel guilt and regret, rather than joy.
  • When he enters, she reminds him that he must not think about their crimes.
  • When he is doubtful, she reminds him that he must look the part at their banquet that night.
  • Why do you think she pretends to him that she is not feeling guilty?

Act Three, Scene Four, lines 49–58

  • Macbeth:
  • Thou canst not say I did it; never shake
  • Thy gory locks at me.
  • Ross:
  • Gentlemen, rise. His highness is not well.
  • Lady Macbeth:
  • Sit, worthy friends. My lord is often thus;
  • And hath been from his youth. Pray you keep seat.
  • The fit is momentary; upon a thought
  • He will again be well. If much you note him,
  • You shall offend him and extend his passion.
  • Feed, and regard him not. Are you a man?
  • Macbeth:
  • Aye, and a bold one, that dare look on that ...
  • Macbeth talks to the ghost of Banquo, whom he has just had murdered.
  • Lady Macbeth takes charge. She tells the lords that Macbeth has been prone to fits from his youth.
  • Which qualities does she exhibit in this scene?

Act Three, Scene Four, lines 59–73

  • Lady Macbeth: O proper stuff!
  • This is the very painting of your fear.
  • This is the air-drawn dagger which you said
  • Led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts,
  • Impostors to true fear, would well become
  • A woman’s story at a winter’s fire,
  • Authorized by her grandam. Shame itself!
  • Why do you make such faces? When all’s done
  • You look but on a stool.
  • Macbeth: Prithee, see there!
  • Behold! Look! Lo! – How say you? …
  • Lady Macbeth: What, quite unmanned in folly?
  • Macbeth: If I stand here, I saw him.
  • Lady Macbeth: Fie, for shame!
  • Lady Macbeth tells him that he is imagining things, just as he did the dagger when he was thinking about killing Duncan.
  • Again, she questions his manhood.
  • She likens him to a woman telling a story. She cannot see the ghost, only a stool.

Act Three, Scene Four, lines 92–109

  • Macbeth (sees the Ghost):
  • Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!
  • Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold.
  • Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
  • Which thou dost glare with.
  • Lady Macbeth: Think of this, good peers,
  • But as a thing of custom; ’tis no other;
  • Only it spoils the pleasure of the time.
  • Macbeth: … Hence, horrible shadow!
  • Unreal mockery, hence! [Exit Ghost]
  • Why, so; being gone,
  • I am a man again. – Pray you sit still.
  • Lady Macbeth:
  • You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting
  • With most admired disorder.
  • Macbeth continues to talk to the ghost, telling it to go.
  • When the ghost disappears, Macbeth calms down. He uses his wife’s words, and tells them that he is ‘a man again’.
  • Lady Macbeth continues to cover for him. She manages to stay calm in this difficult situation.

Act Three, Scene Four, lines 113–121

  • Macbeth:
  • … When now I think you can behold such sights
  • And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks,
  • When mine is blanched with fear.
  • Ross: What sights, my lord?
  • Lady Macbeth:
  • I pray you speak not; he grows worse and worse.
  • Question enrages him. At once, good night.
  • Stand not upon the order of your going;
  • But go at once.
  • [Exit Lords]
  • Macbeth:
  • It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood ...
  • Taking control once again, Lady Macbeth quickly ends the banquet, before things get any worse.
  • Macbeth seems to be having a breakdown. His words suggest his highly troubled mental state.

Act Five, Scene One, lines 2–15

  • Doctor:
  • … When was it she last walked?
  • Gentlewoman:
  • Since his majesty went into the field I have seen her rise from her bed, throw her nightgown upon her, unlock her closet … yet all this while in a most fast sleep.
  • Doctor:
  • A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefit of sleep and do the effects of watching. In this slumbery agitation, besides her walking and other actual performances, what, at any time, have you heard her say?
  • Gentlewoman:
  • That, sir, which I will not report after her.
  • The final time we see Lady Macbeth, she has gone mad. The doctor and her maid discuss the symptoms.
  • The doctor asks what she has been saying in her sleep, but the maid is too scared to tell him.
  • The maid explains how she has been sleepwalking.

Act Five, Scene One, lines 26–39

  • Doctor:
  • What is it she does now? Look how she rubs her hands.
  • Gentlewoman:
  • It is an accustomed action with her to seem thus washing her hands. I have known her continue in this a quarter of an hour.
  • Lady Macbeth:
  • Yet here’s a spot.
  • 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 afeard? – What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to accompt? – Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?
  • Lady Macbeth is continually rubbing at her hands, as though to wash them.
  • Lady Macbeth tries to rub the spots of blood from her hands.
  • She talks of how they should not care who knows about the murders, as no one can charge the king and queen.

Act Five, Scene One, lines 41–49

  • Lady Macbeth:
  • The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now? – What, will these hands ne’er be clean? – No more o’that, my lord, no more o’that: you mar all with this starting.
  • Doctor:
  • Go to, go to: you have known what you should not.
  • Gentlewoman:
  • She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of that. Heaven knows what she has known.
  • Lady Macbeth:
  • Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh!
  • Notice how this entire scene is written in prose, rather than verse.
  • As well as seeing the blood, Lady Macbeth also believes she can smell it.
  • The doctor and maid are fearful, both about what she has done, and about the consequences for them.

Discussion

Part One

Quotations

The essay title

  • Now that you have studied the relevant scenes in detail, you are ready to plan your essay. Here is a reminder of the essay title:
  • Analyse the character of Lady Macbeth in detail, looking closely at her relationship with her husband. To what extent does she influence Macbeth in committing the murders? What changes take place in her character during the play?

Writing an essay

Part One

  • The first part of the question asks you to do two things: analyse her character in detail and look closely at the couple’s relationship.
  • Analyse the character of Lady Macbeth in detail, looking closely at her relationship with her husband.
  • The words ‘analyse’ and ‘in detail’ tell you that you must look deeply into these aspects, weighing up both sides of every issue and giving as much information as you can.
  • Analyse the character of Lady Macbeth in detail, looking closely at her relationship with her husband.
  • Analyse the character of Lady Macbeth in detail, looking closely at her relationship with her husband.

Part One – power

Part One

  • Use the brainstorm below to write out your ideas about what to include when answering the first part of the essay question.
  • Part One

Part Two

  • To what extent does she influence Macbeth in committing the murders?
  • The next part of the question asks you to explore how far she influences her husband when it comes to killing Duncan, Macduff’s family and Banquo.
  • This part asks you a question, and you will therefore need to come to a decision. Some commentators believe that Macbeth has already made up his mind, whilst others feel that his wife is a powerful influence on him.
  • To what extent does she influence Macbeth in committing the murders?
  • To what extent does she influence Macbeth in committing the murders?

Part Two

  • Use the brainstorm below to write out your ideas about what to include when answering the second part of the essay question.
  • Part Two

Part Three

  • What changes take place in her character during the play?
  • Finally, you are asked about the changes in her character. You will need to look at the subtle changes as well as her descent into madness.
  • What changes take place in her character during the play?

Part Three

  • Use the brainstorm below to write out your ideas about what to include when answering the third part of the essay question.
  • Part Three


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