The eminence which Macbeth enjoys among the tragic heroes of Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth enjoys among the heroines. She far excels other heroines in the Shakespearean world by her grandeur, strength and awe. She is a fitting counter-part to her husband and possesses just those very qualities which her Lord lacks. She is, therefore, complementary to her husband and helps in making the tragedy full and complete. She is the guiding force and deciding factor at least in the first half of the play. Without her the tragedy of Macbeth would have been impossible.
Lady Macbeth is as ambitious as her husband. The only difference between her ambition and that of her husband is that she is not ambitious for herself but for her Lord. She wants him to wear the crown of Scotland and rule secure. Mrs. Jameson Says of her. “It is particularly observable that in Lady Macbeth’s concentrated, strong-nerved ambition, the ruling passion of her mind, there is yet a touch of womanhood; she is ambitious less for herself than for her husband.” The truth of her selfless ambition may be illustrated from the fact that in her famous soliloquy after reading her husband’s letter, she does not even once refer to herself. She loves her husband dearly and this affection adds strength to her will and ambition. She is so devoted to her husband that she goes to the extent of renouncing her womanhood and unsexing herself.
She strains herself so much in this business that her feminine nerves break down and she suffers all the tortures of hell even while she lives.
Lady Macbeth excels even her husband in her strength of will. determination and resourcefulness. Once the decision to murder King Duncan is taken. she knows no wavering or retreating back, no sense of morality, obligations or compassion can deter her from striving to achieve her goal. She would never bid the earth not hear her steps or stars to hide their light. This force of will makes her bold, courageous, irresistible, passionless and cruel. She invokes the spirits to make her blood thick and to stop up all access and passage to pity and remorse.
When Macbeth pronounces,
“We will proceed no further in this business,”
She scolds him, reproves him and brings him back to his original decision. Without her the murder of the king would have been impossible.
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Lady Macbeth is highly resourceful at some time. She is tactful and does not lose her mental equilibrium even in the most critical situations. She advises her husband to “look like the innocent flower and be the serpent under it.” She is a woman of very practical wisdom. She thinks out a very clever plan to transfer their guilt of murder to the sleeping grooms.
When Macbeth dreads his filthy hands” she says tactfully-
A little water clears us of this deed
How easy is it then!
Some critics even believe that her fainting at the time of the exposure of the king’s murder was merely an affectation. She feigned in order to divert the attention of the lords and ladies from her husband to herself. She was afraid that her husband might divulge the guilt out of his excessive fear, weakness and pricking conscience.
Yet she is essentially a woman of feminine nature. She cannot wholly discard her faminine weakness in spite of her devilish will and unwavering determination. Her love for her husband leads her to strain herself too much against her feminine nature. In spite of all her invocation to “spirits that tend on human thoughts’, she faints. Finally, her feminine nature fully possesses her in the sleep walking scene, Every scene of the murder has gone deep into her mind and heart.
She sobs like a tender maiden and says- “The Thane of Fife had a wife where is she now?”
Had she been completely devoid of feminine nature, she would never have spoken in such a tone.
Even her conscience, though much banquished and long suppressed, is not quite killed in her. Her conscience does prick her for her crimes. She even repents her folly after the deed has been done. She becomes the Queen of Scotland, yet can enjoy no joy or peace in life.
Gervinus says. “her unnaturally strained conscience and power of dissimulation avenge themselves during sleep and the somnambulist, self. betraying acts as it were all the secret, guilty scenes over again. Once she thought she could with a little water clear away the witness of that deed, but now, in the torture of her hardened heart, she complains with groans of anguish that the smell and strain of blood will never wash away.” Her heart is sorely charged and she heaves out.
“Here is the smell of blood still, all the perfumes of Arabia will not Sweeten this little hand.”
Therefore Lady Macbeth is not quite inhuman. It is a mistake to call her the “fourth witch” in Macbeth. She is not by nature inhuman. She deliberately tries to counteract all feelings of joy and remorse in a condition of abnormal excitability. In spite of all her vicious deeds, we pity her and mourn her untimely death.