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Alexandre Marcondes David Beckley English IV - Honors 15 March 2011 Lady Macbeth: A Wannabe Shakespeares Macbeth ends with

Malcolm reclaiming his rightful place on the throne and making a speech in which he declares that Lady Macbeth is a fiendlike Queen (5. 8. 69). Lady Macbeth, however, is not a true fiend. A fiend is a person of great wickedness and maliciousness and while Lady Macbeth sometimes appears fiendlike, she never actually has more than the intention of being fiendlike. In the first act, Lady Macbeth summons the powers of evil and convinces her husband to commit regicide. While this is undeniably evil, by the end of the play she has suffered an apparent mental breakdown and can no more be considered wicked than a child who ignorantly plots the destruction of the world. Lady Macbeths first appearance in the play is when she invokes the powers of evil to unsex her and to ...fill [her], from crown to the toe, topfull / Of direst cruelty! (1. 5. 42-44). Her desire to have her milk turned to bitter gall is a direct parallel of her earlier soliloquy where she states that her husband is ...too full o the milk of human kindness... (1. 5. 18). These statements establish her malicious intent, and when Macbeth tells her that they will not go forward with the original plan to kill Duncan, her intent becomes reality. She is adamant about her husband killing Duncan and, by casting aspersions on his manliness, eventually drives him to add to the murderous plot himself. While attacking Macbeth, she contrasts Macbeths weakness to her strength. She states that, had [she] sworn as [Macbeth], had to kill Duncan, she would have, dashed the brains out, of her own baby while it were still nursing whilst, smiling in [her] face (1. 7. 56 to 58). There is no doubt that, in this moment, Lady Macbeth is completely pernicious and wicked; therefore, in this instant, she may be considered

fiendlike. This consideration quickly changes with her next important appearance. The second act sees Duncans demise as well as Lady Macbeths first break in the fiendlike characterization established in Act I. When Lady Macbeth enters in scene two, she remarks that she is drunk and that, ...what hath quenched [the guards] hath given [her] fire (2. 2. 2). She is implying that before she was drunk, she had no fire, the fire being the will and drive to help her husband to actually kill Duncan. Had she no fire, she may not have appeared nearly as strong as she does in this scene. This fire allows her to help Macbeth when he, who has seen human blood and was described as having gutted Macdonwald in the Sergeants speech in Act I, Scene I, could not place the daggers back in Duncans bedroom. Lady Macbeth even goes a step further and spreads the blood on the guards, for it must seem their guilt (2. 2. 57). In the same monologue, she comments that, Had [Duncan] not resembled / [Her] father as he slept, [she] had [killed him] (2. 2. 13). This shows that Lady Macbeth does have some inkling of love or some other innate goodness that cannot be touched by all the powers of darkness that she had summoned earlier. This goodness proves that despite her intentions, Lady Macbeth cannot truly become as evil as she wants to. At this point, she should be characterized as all talk and no walk. One of the most famous scenes in Macbeth, the so-called sleepwalking scene, brings about Lady Macbeths greatest demise as a fiendlike character. In this scene, she makes desperate, delirious allusions to events that happened earlier in the play. With references like, The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now? What, will these hands neer be clean? (5. 1. 47). referring to Macduffs wife and sons death by Macbeths orders and Macbeth washed his hands of Duncans blood. On top of that, under the weight of all the evil she has summoned, she has become afraid of the dark, and so she walks with a candle to ward off the darkness. This represents her absolute breaking point and the point at which all possibility of Lady Macbeth being a fiendlike Queen is destroyed (5. 8. 69). If Lady Macbeth had been as vicious and heartless as Malcolm suggested, she would not have gone mad under the moral weight of her actions. It is far more likely that she would have been basking in the pain of

those around her. Had her true desire been for evil, then after she had caused it (and caused it she did), she should have been content. Instead, she went mad. All of this builds up to Lady Macbeths tormented death, and in Malcolms final speech he states that she, by self and violent hands / Took off her life (5. 8. 70). If it is true that Lady Macbeth killed herself, then she must have done so for a specific reason. Ockham's razor says that the simplest of answers is most likely the correct one, and in this case the simplest reason for her suicide is that she was unhappy with the way things had turned out for her husband. Macbeths downfall can be traced back directly to Lady Macbeths deleterious encouragement. The events that occur in Macbeth are almost all acts of great evil (with a few valiant acts dispersed) and are all directly caused by Lady Macbeths actions and malicious intent in Act I. While Lady Macbeths characterization in Act I is integral to the tragedy of Macbeth, that does not change the fact that Lady Macbeth is only truly fiendlike at one, and only one, point in the play.