Lady Macbeth Character sketch

Lady Macbeth, the Clytemnestra of English tragedy is naturally drawn as a foil to Macbeth.She possesses ‘a frightfully determined will’ and an iron stability of resolve. It is to Lady Macbeth what imagination is to Macbeth the feature that transcends and dominates all other in the character. It is the secret of her influence over Macbeth and of her success in winning him to consent.

But, it proves her ruin. It makes Lady Macbeth impose upon herself and bear, for a time, a strain beyond the ultimate endurance of the rest of her powers. In fact, her imperious will, like Macbeth’s excess of imaginative faculty, disturbs the proper relation of the forces of the character.

Lady Macbeth’s character has extreme self reliance, unlike Macbeth who turns to her for co-operation, until his menancing sense of retribution substitutes its fatal stimulus. Intellectually too, Lady Macbeth is superior of Macbeth just as Portia is of Bassanio and Rosalind of Orlanto. The dexterity with which she meets Macbeth’s reluctance to go further in the work, the swiftness with which she perceives the effect of the deed on Macbeth and the resource and alertness of brain Lady Macbeth manifests at the banquet scene, all are but commendable.

But intellectual keenness does not compensate the lack of imagination. Gifted with true imaginative insight, Lady Macbeth could never have made her appaling miscalculation as to the moral results her crime would produce in Macbetdh and in herself.

Of conscience, she certainly manifests less than Macbeth. It has been held that even the dire sleepwalking scene doesnot justify us with crediting her with true remorse for : ‘from her lips, as from her husbands, no word of contrition for the past ever falls’.

However, judging more by what we see rather than what we hear, the wrecked body and soul does highlight some working of the conscience as a potent cause in the character of Lady Macbeth.

The three main reason of Lady Macbeth’s delirium in the sleepwalking scene can be characterised to mere reproductions of the scenes of that horrible night; continuous struggle of Lady Macbeth to keep her husband from betraying himself and the uprising of her femine nature against the foulness of the deed.

Illuminating the brighter side of the character of Lady Macbeth we find in her character true devotion to her husband. Variety remarks, ‘she lives only in him (Macbeth) and his greatness’ . It is notable that even after Macbeth’s breakdown in the banquet scene, Lady Macbeth utters no word of reproach but simply remarks : ‘You lack the season of all natures, sleep’. Lady Macbeth’s very initial solioluqy reveals her indepth understanding of her husband’s nature.

Lady Macbeth’s invocation of the powers of darkness proves that she is no stranger to gentler impulses of womanhood, for a Goneril would not need to pray that she might be ‘unsexed’ or a Regan to petition for a richer measure of ‘direst cruelity’.

To quote Bradley, ‘Lady Macbeth is perhaps the most awe- inspiring figure that Shakespeare ever drew. Sharing certain traits with her husband, she is at once clearly distinguised from him by an inflexibility of will, which appears to hold imagination, feeling and conscience completely in check.

Thus, Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth is a misguided and misguiding wife who for the fulfillment of her husband’s desires prays to be nerved by unnatural access to ferocity but ultimately suffers a crash of finer spirit due to nemesis.


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