ACT 5 SCENE 1 LADY MACBETH (THE LETTER: "take forth paper, fold it,…
ACT 5 SCENE 1 LADY MACBETH
A society ruled by men for their own interests to preserve their own power, and deny women power to ensure their own power
Shakespeare's society was a patriarchal society - what would be the psychological effect of this?
It is not guilt that spurs her to kill herself, potentially, it is the lack of power she has in society
Lady Macbeth tries to gain power by becoming Queen, but finds she has less power than she did before from Macbeth
NATURE OF THE SCENE
The guilt at her involvement with the killing of Duncan that has slowly sent her mad which is the reason for her suicide
Shakespeare attacking women - this shows her weakness and this shows that she is not really able to show courage like her husband
She is executed off stage - to show how disrespectful she is as a woman as she has broken the divine order and gone against society
"My dearest partner of greatness"
(Act 1 Scene 5)
He was promising equality - equal power in this patriarchal society
In other words, he was changing the patriarchal society
Once she becomes Queen, he goes back on this promise
"no truth in your report"
The waiting Gentle-woman may have been the daughter of another Thane, so she is not a servant, she is of noble birth who is there to look after her Queen
From the words "
it sounds like the gentlewoman has summoned the Doctor
This is a sign of great love for Macbeth and this juxtaposes our traditional interpretation of Lady Macbeth of her being entirely evil
This juxtaposes with the way people of the society act towards Macbeth as they have no respect for him at this stage in the play only support him out of fear
This is an example of extreme loyalty to Lady Macbeth - as the gentlewoman has actually asked the doctor to help the Queen who must be a really good friend and her perceptive, a really good woman
For example, this is shown by when the English are going to invade, people / Thanes begin to desert Macbeth
How do we know she is loyal? The Gentlewoman is loyal as she is risking her life which is found out later in the scene. So there must be particular admiration and respect for her Queen
"take forth paper, fold it, / write upon't, read it, afterwards seal it, and / again return to bed;"
To find out the mental state of Lady Macbeth, we must pay particular attention to what she does
Shakespeare gives us another letter - it is letter that she is writting
What if this is the letter that Macbeth sent to Lady Macbeth Act 1 Scene 5? This would be the letter that contains the witches promises
What if she start acting like Macbeth? In other words, when she asked to be unsexed and made into a man what she wanted was to become a king. She wanted real power. This could act as a reason for why her language in the play emasculates her husband
She does this by calling him a coward, she truly attacks his masculinity
One of the reasons she undermines him is because she lives in a patriarchal society as no matter how brilliant she is as an individual, she can never achieve ultimate power or perhaps, even real power as she is always an extension of her husband
The role of woman in Jacobean society - to be the property of men
Because she tries to break this role in society, this is what causes the break in her sanity or the schism in her sanity
This letter could be a suicide note that she has written foreshadowing her death in the play. This scene shows her as mentally unstable and would give an explanation to what spurred her to kill herself
This letter could also be a confession. Later on in this scene, she begins to confess what the pair has done . Why does she do this? It could be a sign of her guilt.n Or at a deeper level, she might want Macbeth to get caught
She may want to punish Macbeth but getting him caught for having abandoned her and taken power for himself, having not given any power to her
went into field"
she directly blames him for ruining her dream that she would become Queen with her husband at her side
"went into the field"
This shows the sleepwalking hasn't just happened because of guilt as it has only happened since his majesty
"went into the field"
, which is a link to the field of battle
This isn't guilt or the fact that she knows she is going to lose her crown, she's going to lose her husband to the battle
"Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck"
(Act 3 Scene 2)
This is his way of justifying his decision to push her away, and leave her out of decisions
He is proclaiming that he wants her to stay this way, and not become guilty. But from the killing of Duncan and her involvement, we already know she is innocent as she is guilty for the death of Duncan
He is keeping her
. Knowledge is power and this is an example that it is the power of kingship that he is denying her. She is completely excluded from power
We have got an endearment here which you might she as a sign of love
" dearest chuck
is a little chicken and this is condescending. This shows he no longer values her, certainly not as an equal
This shows him juxtaposing the promise he made to Macbeth is his letter when he said
"my dearest partner in greatness
"she has a light by her / continually"
She always has to have light next to her
Links to the Gentlewoman's responsibility of ensuring Lady Macbeth has a candle next to her at all times
Symbolic of her fear of Hell Which if you remember "the dunnest smoke of hell" that she summoned when she asked to be unsexed and asked those murdering ministers to tend on mortal thoughts and take away any sense of guilt
The "dunnest smoke of hell" has not worked so she wants to get rid of the smoke of Hell so symbolically she is now afraid of dying. She is not afraid of what is going to happen to her but to her soul. Remember this is a Christian Play
"Light" - is symbolic of God so it appears that Lady Macbeth has turned to God. Perhaps, pleading for help This is not something the truly evil would do
"Out , damned spot"
Shakespeare is attempting to get the audience to emphasise with Lady Macbeth -
"thus washing her hands"
- she spends lots of tie trying to get rid of the blood
She spends lots of time trying to get rid of the blood that has metaphorically stained her hands after she carried the daggers back to Duncan
- contrasts with her husband, Macbeth who has turned killing into a pass time. For example, torturing Macduff's family. We can she that Lady Macbeth is nothing like her husband, he is far more evil
This part is what typically is assumed to be an explanation for why she kills herself and why her guilt spurs her to commit this deed. But actually, it is not her guilt, it is her lack of power
is a reference to the little part she has had in the blood-letting. Or in other words, how little part she has had in the relationship since Macbeth has become king
She is commanding "out" which is a symbol of power as it is a forceful, imperative verb. The repetition shows how desperate she is for power but as she cannot get rid of this spot of blood, this shows her as weak
This weakness shown by her inability to wash the blood clean from her hands is symbolic of the lack of power she has in everything else. And the lack of power the rest of the women in a Jacobean society has
Washing the guilt from her hands. As the relationship disintegrates, so does her mental stability. Washing of hands represents the guilt and torture Lady Macbeth is currently suffering.
Contrast of Iambic Pentameter and Prose
reminds us of religious reprimand where people are condemned to eternal punishment ( fear of death and Great Chain of Being). She labels blood as "damned" almost deflecting, once again, her own actions. Biblical , denying repentance means you are doomed
eiterates a desperation about her in this moment rather than speaking to her bloody hands she is in fact pleading her remorse to disappear
This could be the subconscious of Lady Macbeth: her true self. The version of the villainess establishes the theme of appearance vs reality as this juxtaposes the dominate character in Act 1 Scene 5/7. Shakespeare, here presents a vulnerable, mentally, unstable women questions her own actions and morality
"One; two: why / then, 'tis time to do't"
Lady Macbeth is ringing the bells - that's the signal to Macbeth that the grooms have been drugged by her and that they are fast asleep and he can go in undisturbed and execute King Duncan
So is listening for the Bell? Macbeth
Because she is powerless, she imagines herself as Macbeth the person who has power and she imagines herself as him because power is what she wants and what the patriarchal society has denied her
"a solider, and afeard"
This disgust now isn't just a tactic to try and persuade him to kill Duncan,
It is the full horror that her husband who has all this power is still weaker than she is
It is fascinating that she is the stronger of the two
But in the end kills herself, not through guilt but because the gift of becoming Queen is worthless. She has no power at all and this society has excluded her because she has no power in this patriarchal society
"Yet who would have thought the old ma to have had so much blood in him"
Obviously, this is a sign of guilt. But, her first thought is about
And in a way that Macbeth has robbed her power
"The thane of Fife, had a wife"
This internal rhyme reminds us of a child's nursery rhyme
This links to how she tries to become Queen by trying to compensate for having lost and child, and more specifically, not having an heir for the thrown to maintain power
Links to her worries in Act 1 Scene 5 when she says
"take my milk for gall
Lady Macbeth completely rejects parental emotions or actions - this could have been done by Shakespeare to present her as more powerful, and divert her from the typical role of woman but to also heighten her separation for children including her own
This makes us deeply sympathetic towards her because it shows who she avoids having a child or having these instincts to avoid the emotional pain- Shakespeare almost wants us to respect her want for power as a coping mechanism
"where is she now?"
links to the death of Lady Macduff as it shows how YET AGAIN Macbeth has taken the power from a woman to benefit his own. The is why she is referred to as "wife" as this is her only purpose in society as it acts as a symbol of how the patriarchal society destroys women
The patriarchal society has literally killed her and this thought leads to her decision to kill herself because of her lack of power. Maybe this is a way of her having ultimate power? She doesn't want the patriarchal society or Macbeth to take any more of her power, she wants to have the fulfilment of power not being taken away
"all the / perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand"
She returns to the guilt
The connotations of "perfume" shows us how deeply it has affected her and juxtaposes the fact that it is hardly visible, it is only a spot that is hardly noticeable
She cannot get rid of the smell and this is a metaphor for her guilt
Her language becomes really feminine - "
links her back to the Jacobean woman we expected to be revealed in Act 1 Scene 5 after she had finished reading out the letter
" - emphasis on this adjective, refers back to how little power Lady Macbeth - and in fact all women - has
is a metaphor for the power you hold, and here she has none
"To bed, to bed
A longing for bed - which is a symbol of sleep so one the one hand death and that she is longing for death which links to her suicide
But she is also looking for peace and companionship and it is interesting that when we started the scene, Lady Macbeth has woken up and is wandering about and Macbeth is nowhere to be seen
It is clear that they are not sleeping together anymore, there marriage has broken done because she has rejected her
"give me your hand
Remembering the time when Duncan was killed
She is also desperate for a hand in marriage - power- she desperate for again, it is that idea of partnership that Macbeth promised but has taken away
It is repeated at the end of the scene, as her final line, again shows us her longing for companionship with her husband that he's rejected and again it is a metaphor for sleep, the eternal sleep for death
"pale" "Banquo's buried"
These quotes remind us how much better Lady Macbeth is compared to her husband and different to Macbeth
- this links to the description of when Duncan was killed and the reason she keeps coming back to this is because that it is Duncan's murder that she feels guilty for as it was the only murder she was actually involved in
But look at Macbeth, he couldn't care less about Duncan's murder because Macbeth has been troubled with killing Banquo since killing Duncan
. For instance, it is Banquo's ghost that returns to haunt Macbeth at the Banquet
A modern audience may sympathise with Macbeth because of his guilt for killing his friend but a typical Jacobean audience, would be appalled as what this says is that Macbeth has killed a king and has no regrets about that
Just as the symbolising might symbolise Lady Macbeth's guilt, Banquo's guilt symbolises Macbeth's guilt as he couldn't care less about having killed the king and in the eyes of a Shakespearean audience, is far worse crime than Lady Macbeth as she is acknowledging the
Great Chain of Being
and living though the pain
So, we are invited to sympathise with her as she is far less evil than her husband
"what's / done cannot be undone
She now realizes that yes she's giving advice to Macbeth about not to worry about things - but for her, its the opposite
The sin that she is committed cannot be undone, she is going to go to hell, and this is her tragedy and why she believes she might as well commit suicide
Because why wait? Her life compensation would have been when she achieved power that has been denied to her all the way through her life
IAMBIC PENTAMETER AND PROSE
Two personalities are highlighted
She uses iambic pentameter when she appears dominant and is acting on the behalf of her conscious
This up and down rhythm serves to indicate that there is something unstable about this woman. Foreshadows her break down as a character
When her relationship breaks, when she reaches the end of her power she speaks in prose
She is the only Shakespeare protagonist to die speaking this way which truly emphasises her insignificance
It outlines her subconsciousness: the ethical and the moral