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Macbeth - Presentation of Characters

Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare written sometime between 1603-1606, is a tragic story of
death and deceit amongst the noblemen of Scotland. The two main characters are Macbeth, Thane
of Glamis and his wife Lady Macbeth. The play is based around the conflict in Scotland at the time
between the King and rebellious Scotsmen, who were overcome single-handedly by Macbeth on the
side of the King, Duncan. Macbeth and his fellow kinsman Banquo were met on a heath by three
witches who prophesised Macbeth becoming Thane of Cawdor, and later King of Scotland. When he
later learned he had been made Thane of Cawdor for his service to the crown, he believed that it was
the work of the witches. However, rather than leaving it to the witches, Macbeth decided he would
have to kill the king himself if he wanted the crown, fulfilling his ambition. Therefore, with the
influence and assistance of his wife, he eventually murdered King Duncan, with himself then
becoming king. He is r! esultantly guilt ridden, but his wife is very calm and accepts no responsibility
for Duncans death. The tables turn later on in the play though, with Macbeth continuing his killing to
gain more power and becoming more independent from his wife, eventually leading to her going
mad and committing suicide. This play and the topics explored within it were very relevant to the
time in which it was written. Practising witchcraft became an executable offence in 1604, so the
witches in the play would have caused quite some controversy. Regicide, the murder of a king or
queen, was also an extremely serious crime as the king was believed to have been chosen by God, so
to kill the king was to act against God and also nature. Today it is still the only executable offence in
the United Kingdom. The King of England when the play was written, James I, was interested in the
supernatural. He also survived an assassination attempt in his youth and had an ancestor named
Banquo, who was historically evil but was made good in Shakespeares play. All of these aspects of
the play would have appealed to King James which implies it may have been written for him. The
whole idea of rebellion and deceit is also linked to more topical events of the time, namely the
gunpowder plot of 1605 when an attemp! t was made to blow up the Houses Of Parliament.

Act 1 Scene 1 of the play sets the scene with a very short, mysterious gathering of the three witches.
They appear suddenly, in mid-conversation, which is dramatic and creates unclear ideas about the
dubious topics of conversation. This in turn creates an air of tension, suspicion and an ominous
atmosphere. The presence of thunder and lightning is a symbol of evil and creates a more hostile
atmosphere. This suggests that the rest of the play will be full of deceit; revenge; anger and pain,
implying the play will be a tragedy. This scene creates a sense of mystery and intrigue, and as the
scene is short, there is little evidence to go on, so there is nothing about which the audience can be
decisive or certain. As far as what we learn about Macbeth goes, we know that the witches plan to
meet Macbeth later in the play on the same heath as they are in this scene. We also learn that there
will be some sort of battle from which Macbeth will emerge victorious. They show this in the! ir
conversation When the battles lost, and won This shows that one side, (as we later learn the
rebellious Scots led by Macdonald) will emerge losers and the other (Macbeth) will emerge
victorious. This is speaking in a contradictory way, and makes use of antithesis. This has relevance to
many instances later in the play where characters have contradictory thoughts. Antithesis is used
again in this scene in the ultimate stanza, the witches chant a warning Fair is foul, and foul is fair,
Hover through the fog and filthy air This implies that appearances are deceptive, and it creates a
sense of mystery and encourages thought as to what significance this may hold for later in the play.
As it is a rhyming couplet, it is more memorable and dramatically effective to the audience. The
confused messages it conveys provoke deep thought amongst the members of the audience. This
scene is similar to an introduction or prologue to a novel.

Act 1, Scene 2 of the play is the real beginning. The audience hears about the gruesome way in which
Macbeth slaughtered the opposing Scotsmen, led by Macdonald. In this scene, a wounded soldier
who comes fresh from battle glorifies Macbeth he is credited to the entire defeat of the Scots single-
handed. The audience builds a picture of Macbeth as a very brave, courageous fighter and leader in
battle. The King of Scotland, Duncan, also values Macbeth very highly, which leads to his becoming
Thane of Cawdor. Duncan shows his gratitude to Macbeth during the soldiers account of the battle O
valiant cousin, worthy gentleman! This shows that the king regards Macbeth so highly he sees him as
a relative. He sees him as a brave and loyal soldier; a heroic fighter. However, Macbeth appears quite
ruthless, and he seems to have no conscience when fighting for his king. He gives the impression of
being a little arrogant and ostentatious. This is evident particularly in the brutal way in which he
slaughtered Macdonald, as described by the wounded soldier Till he unseamed him from the nave to
th chops, And fixed his head upon our battlements This shows that Macbeth is a cold-hearted
predator when it comes to battle. Here, Macbeth is not at all troubled by the blood he has shed. This
is notably comparable to Act 2, Scene 2 where he is the complete opposite, plagued with guilt over
his murderous actions where the blood symbolises guilt. In turn, both relate back to Act 1, Scene 1
and the prediction of contradiction later in the play. After this scene, the feelings of the audience
about Macbeth are that he is a noble, loyal servant to the king, who goes fearlessly into battle, and
would die for his cause. He does, however, appear much more brutal and violent than first imagined.
This scene also reinforces the witches prophecy that they would meet Macbeth on the heath once
the battles are over and he emerges victorious. However brutal he may appear though, the audience
gets the impression that he is a very loyal servant, and is a very trustworthy character. Act 1, Scene 3
is a very significant part of the play and has an adverse effect on the remainder of it. This is the scene
first prophesised in Act 1, Scene 1 where the witches say they will meet Macbeth. Towards the
beginning of this scene, we learn that the witches are in fact evil. One of them punishes a woman
who refused to give her a chestnut by creating a storm for the womans husband at sea. All three
witches get pleasure out of this evil. There is also an indication that they may have some kind of
supernatural powers, as they have a cut-off thumb, which they claim is from the husband of the
woman who refused the witch a chestnut. This suggestion of magical or supernatural powers
reinforces the intrigue created in Act 1, Scene 1. As Macbeth enters, his first words echo the final
words of the witches in the first scene, as he addresses Banquo So foul and fair a day I have not seen
This refers back to the witches Fair is foul and foul is fair The significance of Macbeth saying this is
that he is again suggesting the idea of appearances being deceptive in terms of them winning the
battle, but at the same time the weather being horrific. This is ironic as he is the character who later
becomes two-faced and deceptive, so he is in fact talking about himself. Following the introduction
to the third scene comes the primary climax of the play the meeting of Macbeth, Banquo and the
witches. The witches greet Macbeth with a prophecy - that he will become Thane of Cawdor, and
then King of Scotland. At first, Macbeth appears slightly taken aback. However, he soon dismisses
what he considers an absurd prediction. Banquo is similarly startled and surprised, and questions the
accuracy of what the witches have said. They also tell Banquo that he will have children who will
become Kings of Scotland, although he will not make it himself. Here Macbeth re-enters into the
conversation, appearing rather disturbed by what has been said, and he is anxious to hear the basis
upon which the witches have prophesised. He demands to know more of them Stay, you imperfect
speakers, tell me more This shows his apprehension to relieve his ignorance. The witches promptly
depart, and although Macbeth and Banquo engage in light conversation about the occurrence, they
do not really take it seriously.

Shortly afterwards, Ross meets Macbeth and Banquo. He praises Macbeths efforts in the battles, and
goes on to inform him of his honorary new role, Thane of Cawdor. At first, Macbeth is shocked, and
he immediately questions Ross. Once Macbeth acknowledges the news of the traitorous behaviour
of the then present Thane of Cawdor, he believes that his honour is the work of the witches and that
they are able to change the future. Macbeth immediately jumps to the obvious conclusion he
believes that, having fulfilled the primary part of the prophecy he will soon accomplish the second
and become king. He demonstrates this in his aside Glamis and Thane of Cawdor. The greatest is
behind This is the first sign that Macbeth has some kind of deceitful, evil side to his nature. Banquo
intelligently tracks Macbeths thought, and speaks aloud about his concerns of the evil nature of the
witches, and what chaos they could potentially cause. He refers to them as instruments of darkness,
using imagery of darkness representing evil. Shakespeare makes use of dramatic irony here, as we,
the audience, are aware from Act 1, Scene 2 that Macbeth has been made Thane of Cawdor for his
bravery and not by the witches. Macbeth is presented as a very confused character at this point
though; arguing with himself in his asides. He unsuccessfully attempts to rationalise as to whether
the witches intentions are good or evil. However, already his thoughts turn to potential regicide. At
this point in the play though, Macbeth is very uncomfortable with the thought of killing the king, and
he is very insecure as he shows in another of his asides My thought, whose murder yet is but
fantastical Here he demonstrates that for the moment, his evil thoughts are only fantasy. It appears
here that Macbeth is quite gullible and has been deceived into believing the witches prophecy,
simply because they were aware of his becoming Thane of Cawdor prior to him. Macbeths times of
silence during his asides concern Banquo and Ross. However, from the moment that Macbeth learns
he is Thane, his lies begin, as he claims he has forgotten about killing the king to Banquo and Ross
when in fact his ambitions have been fuelled and his mind is on nothing else. There is an evident
uncertainty as to what will happen next, with the idea prominent in Macbeths brain. The original
impression of Macbeth to the audience is immediately put into question. Although he has done no
physical harm to anyone, his treacherous thoughts lead the audience to begin to doubt the loyalty
and devotion of Macbeth to his King and country he was originally credited with. Act 1, Scene 4 is
where Macbeth really begins to weave his web of deceit. The scene begins with King Duncan talking
of the dishonesty and mistrust he experienced with the previous Thane of Cawdor. This is ironic
considering the treacherous thoughts the new Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth, has already begun to
have. Similarly, the beginning of Act 1, Scene 6 is ironic with King Duncan and Banquo talking about
the security and pleasantness that Macbeths castle offers them for their visit. In Act 1, Scene 4,
Macbeth enters and King Duncan immediately beings to praise him for his efforts in the recent
battles. The King is very grateful, and tells Macbeth that he can never repay him for his duties. Here
Macbeth is extremely two-faced, telling the King that to serve him is in itself enough of a reward for
his duties The service and the loyalty I owe, In doing it, pays itself Considering his regicidal thoughts
in the previous scene, this is extremely dishonest and deceitful of Macbeth. This again demonstrates
an example of the last line of Act 1, Scene 1, where the witches suggest that appearances can be

In this scene, Macbeth discovers a second obstacle he must overcome if he is to fulfil his ambition
and the witches prophecy. King Duncan announces that, following the betrayal of the previous Thane
of Cawdor, the new heir to his throne will be his son, Malcolm. This news is devastating to Macbeth,
as obviously, if he is to become King, he not only has King Duncan to surpass, but also the obstacle
created by the Prince of Cumberland and new heir, Malcolm. However, Macbeth is very successful at
keeping his feelings hidden. He does not actually address the subject directly though; he decides to
invite the King and his subjects to dinner at his home. King Duncan is oblivious to any ulterior motives
Macbeth has, and merely takes the invitation as a kind gesture. In the subsequent aside, Macbeth
reveals his real feelings The Prince of Cumberland - that is a step on which I must fall down or else
oerleap. Here again Macbeth is planning to murder someone, though this time the new obstacle in
his path to achieve his ambition is Malcolm, Prince of Cumberland. This shows the greed and jealousy
behind his loyal, humble exterior. This is all an example of dramatic irony, as we, the audience are
aware of Macbeths true intentions, whereas King Duncan and the Prince of Cumberland are not. This
scene is again similar to Act 1, Scene 6 in which the guests arrive at the home of Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth. There is a conversation between King Duncan and Lady Macbeth, and there are many
similarities visible here between the behaviour of Macbeth in Act 1, Scene 4 and that of Lady
Macbeth in this scene. She is extremely welcoming and displays kindness towards King Duncan, when
in fact behind this she is planning his death making the scene very ironic. We see a great contrast in
Lady Macbeth compared to her behaviour in the previous scene, in which she asks to lose her
conscience to enable her to assist in the murder of King Duncan. This is again comparable to Macbeth
in Act 1, Scene 4 where he plans to murder Duncan, but is extremely two-faced in the subsequent
scene by being welcoming and kind to the King. Lady Macbeth makes a great effort to ensure that
Duncan feels completely relaxed and secure in her hands as hostess. She shows this when speaking
to him All our service in every point twice done, and then done double. This demonstrates the effort
made to make Duncan feel completely comfortable and at ease, in complete trust of Lady Macbeth
and wholly unaware of her cruel intentions. The words of Duncan only reinforce how susceptible he
has been to the lies of Macbeth and his wife. He shows this in the last line of the scene Conduct me
to mine host. We love him highly. These are doubtless the words of someone unreservedly ignorant
to his fate. Act 1, Scene 5 is the first scene in which we meet Lady Macbeth, the other main character
of the play. The first impressions of Macbeth gained by the audience are positive which become
increasingly negative as the play develops. In great contrast, the very first impressions we gain of
Lady Macbeth are of an evil, scheming and ambitious character. She suggests that she is going to
influence Macbeth into making sure he becomes King. She has a hunger for power and is selfish, with
no conscience. This scene appears to suggest that Lady Macbeth is the dominant force in her
relationship with her husband. She makes a bizarre appeal to the spirits to make her less effeminate
and more brutal and courageous. She asks for supernatural help, which links her to the witches at the
beginning of the play. She wishes to lose her femininity and become more masculine, and to
exonerate her conscience of any evils she may commit. An example of this is in her appeal to the
spirits Come, you spirits that tend on moral thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to
the toe top-full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. This indicates her desire to be less of a
stereotypical female, and to have the fortitude to employ whatever means necessary to accomplish
her aspirations. Lady Macbeth appeals to the spirits to remove her maternal instincts, from which we
are able to make an educated guess that she has given birth to a child. However, we are also aware
that the child subsequently died, as later in the play we learn that Macbeth has no children. The
death of this child may have caused Lady Macbeth bitterness, which fuels her ambition to become
Queen of Scotland. There is also significance in her asking the spirits to thicken her blood, as later in
the play Shakespeare uses imagery to make blood represent guilt. Therefore, asking for the
thickening of her blood represents allowing her to withstand guilt, and removing her conscience.
From the point of view of the audience, the introduction of Lady Macbeth is very dramatic and
violent. Her appeal to the spirits is of great compassion and sincer! ity; she immediately appears very
cold, hard and malicious. Lady Macbeth doubts the capabilities of her husband upon delivery of his
letter, and immediately decides to make it her responsibility to ensure he fulfils his ambition. She
believes that Macbeth will be too good-natured to go through with the deed. However, she is also
aware of the ambition of her husband. It is on this basis that she decides to take the responsibility.
She will influence him to ensure he goes through with it, because she is unsure to what lengths he
will go. She demonstrates this in commenting to herself on the letter Yet I fear thy nature. It is too
full o th milk of human kindness. This implies that although Macbeth may be very ambitious, Lady
Macbeth has doubts as to whether or not he will go to the extent of killing his King. However, in the
age in which this play is set, women could only make something of themselves with the aid of a man.
The status of a womans husband determined her own status. Therefore, it is actually debatable
whether Lady Macbeth is doing this to assist her husband, or if it is for her own person gain to
become Queen. In addition, she offers encouragement to her husband for him to not let his true
feelings be outwardly visible. This is an example of the witches idea of appearances being deceptive.
She tells him Your hand, your tongue; look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent undert. This
indicates that Lady Macbeth wants Macbeth to be outwardly loyal but inwardly deceitful extremely

Lady Macbeth appears to be the dominant force in her relationship with Macbeth. She makes the
decisions and takes the actions. They are very open and honest with each other though, and there is
a lot of evident love and passion between them. She does appear to be in control all the time and
Macbeth seems to have little choice but to agree with her. This is shown again when she demands
leave all the rest to me, relating to the planning of Duncans murder. Act 1, Scene 7 contains the
famous soliloquy of Macbeth, in which he debates over whether or not he should murder King
Duncan. He puts forward one reason for killing him fulfilling his ambition. In contrast, he puts
forward many reasons as to why he should not kill Duncan. These include Duncans innocence, the
trust Duncan has for him and how regicide is an unnatural act as according to the divine right of
Kings. As God has chosen the King, he would be going against God and killing him would unbalance
nature, causing chaos or a political storm. In addition, Duncan is a good king, great pity would be
caused and there would be complications in dealing with the guards and kinsmen. Duncan would
have no opportunity to defend himself, so it would not be even-handed justice, and also the
significant matter of Macbeths conscience in killing his own King. This is all summed up in his reason
for killing in his soliloquy I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition.
This indicates that although there are many reasons against killing Duncan, his ambition to become
King is so strong it dominates over them all. Mentally, Macbeth appears relatively stable in his
soliloquy, as he is able to rationally debate with himself whether or not he should kill Duncan. He
does appear quite confused, although at the end of his soliloquy he logically makes up his mind not
to kill Duncan. Macbeth is presented as a strong character for defying his ambition. He exclaims his
decision to Lady Macbeth almost straightaway We will proceed no further in this business. This
shows he has decided not to go ahead with the murder. Nevertheless, when it comes to overcoming
his wifes ambition, he fails. Lady Macbeth easily influences him and persuades him that to murder
Duncan is the right thing to do. Lady Macbeth pressurises Macbeth by making him feel un-manly and
cowardly, and she makes him feel inferior to her. To the audience he appears weak for his inability to
remain defiant against his wife. She blackmails him into murdering Duncan And live a coward in thine
own esteem, letting I dare not wait upon I would. This shows how she makes him feel cowardly and
secondary to her, and in doing so persuades him to take part in Duncans murder. Lady Macbeth is a
manipulative character, and the perception of her by the audience is of an evil, spiteful character
with no conscience who will stop at nothing to achieve her ambition. The feeling of the audience
towards Macbeth is partial respect for deciding not to go ahead. However, the audiences perception
of Macbeth is that he is cowardly for giving into his wifes manipulation. She takes her persuasive
methods to such an extent as to say she would rather kill her own child than give in to conscience
and reason over the issue of killing Duncan. She expresses this to Macbeth 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. This may show that Lady Macbeth is really such an evil, vicious
and ambitious character that she would rather kill her child than not achieve her full potential in
society. It may also be an indication that she has in fact rid herself of her femininity and been
overcome so as her maternal instinct is lost. On the other hand she could be using hyperbole to
persuade her husband by touching a raw nerve in making him feel cowardly and effeminate. Lady
Macbeths character comes across in this scene as extremely strong, and with no apparent doubt in
her mind about what actions to take concerning the fulfilling of her ambition. She is manipulative and
tactical in her persuasion of her husband to kill Duncan. Macbeth in comparison is very weak in
fighting his side of the argument, which in fact assists his wife in persuading him. This may have been
because he was so uncertain in his aside as to whether killing Duncan was the right thing to do.
Throughout the whole of Act 1, Lady Macbeth has changed very little. If anything, she has gone from
being an ambitious, nasty character, to a scheming, extremely ambitious, uncaring, plain evil
character who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. Macbeth appears to have changed from
being a heroic warrior, to a devious, two-faced liar. However, at this point in the play, he is still the
character who questions the morality of certain actions. In comparison, it would appear that! Lady
Macbeth takes the action primarily, and then faces the consequences and suffers later. This becomes
apparent further on in the play, where the pair appear to swap their roles. Macbeth becomes
dominant, and Lady Macbeth a guilt-ridden wreck.

In Act 2, Scene 1 we see Macbeth with Banquo. Shakespeare does this to show the audience how the
pair have grown apart and how Macbeth is becoming increasingly evil. The first indication of this is in
the apprehension with which Banquo greets Macbeth when they meet - unlike King Duncan, Banquo
does not feel secure and feels the need to ask for his sword from his servant upon hearing someone
enter the room. This scene uses a lot more of the imagery found in Act 1, Scene 3 where darkness
represents malevolence, and creates an evil atmosphere. The atmosphere is very appropriate as
Macbeth is again dishonest with Banquo. When Banquo mentions his dreams of the witches and how
they have disturbed his thoughts, Macbeth claims to have forgotten about them altogether, when in
fact it is the exact opposite. He seems to become more isolated as the play develops, and he conceals
his true feelings simply, yet effectively here, claiming I think not of them This is a complete lie, which
represents the obvious divide that now exists between Macbeth and his formerly close friend
Banquo. Eventually this distance leads Macbeth to have Banquo murdered.

Following the departure of Banquo, Macbeth begins his hallucination. He believes he can see a
dagger in front of him. The dagger he sees could be a representation of his ambition to become King
of Scotland. The fact that he is hallucinating is also an indication of his mental instability and
insecurity at the time. It could be argued that the dagger is proven to be his ambition when it leads
him to the chamber of Duncan Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand
Come, let me clutch thee. His desire to hold the dagger here is an indication of his desperation to
accomplish the deed as swiftly as possible, before he has any regrets. Following this, Macbeth
believes that gouts of blood are appearing on the dagger. The blood could represent guilt and the
appearance of it on the dagger suggests that some kind of supernatural work, of witchcraft or
wizardry is responsible. Macbeths mind in this scene appears to be dazed, confused and unsure of
what he is doing. It shows that he has very mixed up emotions and is not coping well. His ambition is
taking over his guilt and rationality. However, the hallucination represents the mental fight Macbeth
is having between the two. Another idea is that the witches have sent the hallucination, which causes
his confusion. His character does now seem completely evil, and he no longer has any physical
influences, such as Lady Macbeth in Act 1, Scene 7. He is killing, or planning to kill of his own accord,
and this makes him evi! l and nasty. It is notable, however, that although he does eventually kill
Duncan, he does not find the task easy. I believe that Shakespeare has included this scene to develop
Macbeth into a more complex, emotional character. His mentally unstable appearance suggests that
he may not be entirely responsible for Duncans murder.

Act 2, Scene 2 is set immediately after Macbeth has murdered King Duncan. This scene is incredibly
ironic considering what happens later in the play, when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth exchange roles
from the way they behave in this scene. Macbeth is even more confused and dazed than he was
before killing Duncan, and he displays an immediate regret for doing it. Having killed him, he goes
immediately to Lady Macbeth without even completing the deed and disposing of the daggers. For
the first time in the play, Macbeth displays an air of authority in declaring that he will not return to
the scene of the crime, and that Lady Macbeth must do it for him. He is extremely paranoid, scared
and frightened. This is indicated in Macbeths inability to say Amen, suggesting that he feels he will go
to hell and is very unholy for killing Duncan, as he tells Lady Macbeth Listning their fear I could not
say Amen when they did say God bless us. This shows that he truly feels God no longer blesses him.
In addition, Macbeth hears a voice that says he will never sleep again Sleep no more Macbeth does
murder sleep, the innocent sleep. This shows that his character has a regret immediately for killing
Duncan. He has murdered someone in his sleep, and in the form of Duncan, sleep symbolises
innocence. Therefore, Macbeth believes he will be unable to sleep. Sleep depravation can cause
depression and make one unhealthy, so by taking Duncans sleep, Macbeth feels he too will be
deprived of the privilege. All of these things Macbeth does are representations of evil taking away
innocence; in the form of sleep, Duncan and religious faith.
Shakespeare then introduces a new form of imagery, which becomes more significant later in the
play, in particular to Lady Macbeth. Macbeth feels he cannot wash off the blood of Duncan, which
represents the way in which his conscience will plague him for the rest of his life. Blood is a symbol of
guilt here, and Macbeth feels he will never lose his. He uses hyperbole and says there is so much
blood on his hands, that to wash them in the sea would only turn the waters red rather than cleanse
him. Shakespeare presents Macbeths guilt and remorse here in the form of him being unable to wash
off the blood. In talking of washing the blood off his hands, Macbeth means the mental blood in its
representation of guilt. He regrets murdering Duncan very much, and hallucinates again hearing a
knocking sound. He appeals to the knocking to awaken Duncan again, and shows how much he
regrets his actions at the end of the scene Wake Duncan with thy knocking. I would thou couldst. This
shows that at this moment in the play, Macbeth would do anything to bring King Duncan back to life.

Lady Macbeth, in direct comparison, copes perfectly well with the whole situation. At the very
beginning of the scene, she appears quite agitated and nervous, appealing to shrieking owls to
silence themselves. However, once Macbeth has returned to her, she appears completely calm and
relaxed about the situation. She immediately complains to her husband for having not completed his
task by bringing the daggers back to her, instead of disposing of them. Again she tries to make him
feel cowardly for not completing it, however this time unsuccessfully. Lady Macbeth states to
Macbeth that if they think about the deed too much they will both go mad. This is ironic as she goes
mad later in the play. She does at this point though, appear to be in control of the situation. She
orders Macbeth around by telling him to ensure all his tracks have been covered, and to forget that
the whole event ever occurred. Having smeared the blood over the Kings guards, Lady Macbeth
returns with a com! pletely clear conscience. She redirects all criticism onto Macbeth and will not
accept any responsibility for assisting in the murder of King Duncan. She also calls Macbeth a coward
for not returning the daggers here My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so
white. This supports the suggestion that Lady Macbeth feels no guilt, as if blood is a representation
of guilt, her white heart represents no guilt whatsoever. Despite having no conscience regarding the
deed, Lady Macbeth remains very paranoid about anyone discovering their guilt. She hears a
knocking noise many times towards the end of this scene, which unnerves her and makes her
apprehensive. Later in the play, the roles are exchanged almost perfectly. Macbeth gradually
becomes increasingly evil, and loses his conscience altogether. Lady Macbeth, in comparison, goes
mad and commits suicide because of her guilt in assisting in Duncans murder becomes so strong she
is unable to live any longer. She now feels she is unable to wash the blood off her hands, whereas
Macbeth has forgotten about the incident completely. He also manages to become much more
independent from her, and is able to continue his corruptive behaviour without her assistance and

Shakespeare has structured the play to reflect Macbeths moral dilemma, in that each scene goes in a
sequence of good and evil. For instance, Act 1, Scene 1 is evil, Act 2, Scene 2 good, then Act 1, Scene
3 evil again. This represents the changing opinions and feelings of Macbeth about whether or not to
kill Duncan. The way that he is constantly changing his mind about whether or not he should fulfil his
ambition follows the same pattern as the representations of good and evil in each scene. Notably,
both the final scene studied and Macbeths opinions emerge evil, with Macbeths guilt-ridden actions
in the final scene, and Duncans death towards the end of the studied section of the play.
Shakespeare uses imagery throughout the whole of the play. However, most prominent are his
representations of good and evil, as light and darkness. Quite stereotypically, the storms, bad
weather, thunder and lightning in the scenes with the witches represent their evil presence, and
some indication of supernatural activity. Shakespeare also uses blood to represent guilt, and there
are many references made throughout the play to blood, which signifies its representation of evil
later in the play. The use of asides is also effective, as it allows the audience to know Macbeths
deepest inner thoughts, giving them the advantage of dramatic irony over the other characters. This
engages the audience, as they can anticipate how the play will develop. However, this play clearly
demonstrates Shakespeare at his most successful, with unexpected plot twists that prove the
predictions of the audience wrong.

In conclusion, I believe Shakespeare has very successfully portrayed the moral dilemma faced by Lady
Macbeth and her husband. He challenges certain stereotypes, such as womens femininity, and mens
masculinity. He does this by giving Lady Macbeth the role of appealing to the spirits to unsex her,
enabling her to assist in Duncans murder without maternal instincts of femininity creating any
boundaries or restrictions to her potential capabilities. Macbeth is presented as a very strong
character physically, able to overcome large armies of men. However, mentally he is weak willed and
finds coping with his ambition very difficult. He has internal conflicts with himself trying to decide
whether or not to fulfil his ambition and become King, or to remain loyal to his master and King,
Duncan. He does actually come to his own conclusions in deciding to not commit the deed. However,
he has no strength of character and allows Lady Macbeth to manipulate him by questioning his
masculinity. Eventually, this leads Macbeth to not only taking the life of his King, but to continue his
tyranny as king by slaughtering anyone who dares to cross his path. Lady Macbeth in comparison
does exactly the opposite. She starts by appealing to the spirits to unsex her, and she becomes a
spiteful, evil, manipulative character. Her ambition is even greater than Macbeths, and it fuels her
onwards to persuade her husband to go ahead and commit regicide, allowing her to become Queen.
Following her becoming Queen, however, she begins to lose her hard, cold exterior, and can no
longer remain free of responsibility for Duncans death. Eventually, the thought of her guilt horrifies
her so much that she goes mad and commits suicide. This suggests that she was only able to accept
no responsibility with the false cover of the spirits, and not independently. Macbeth, however, had
the natural resilience to cope with the responsibility. This is proven in his progression to become a
stronger and more powerful king. The feeling of the audience towards each character also changes as
the play develops. Macbeth appears a heroic warrior at first, and by ! the end of Act 2, Scene 2 the
audience views him as an evil, unkind, dishonest character, who is extremely selfish. Lady Macbeth is
viewed as a manipulative, evil character at first. However, when she goes mad with guilt, there is
some sympathy from the audience towards her. Finally, this play teaches some quite important
moral values that one should never let power influence rational decisions; that honesty eventually
prevails; that ambition can be extremely dangerous; and that ultimately, good always overcomes

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