Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of the renowned playwright’s darkest and most tragic works
Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of the renowned playwright’s darkest and most tragic works. Internationally recognized as one of the four greatest tragedies, “the cursed play” has been read and performed throughout the literary-world for generations. Its leading characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, have often been credited for their similarities in disposition and nature. The once noble and valiant Macbeth, as he was known before succumbing to the transgressions of corrupt men, was in the end, a cold, heartless murder who neither deserved nor desired life. Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s caring and altruistic significant other, strips femininity from her body to reveal a vile persona that casts a shadow over her husband’s evil. Despite this shared malevolence, it is not to be said that both characters lacked differences. Both characters are two separate entities of sin, and it is their suffering through guilt that differentiates them. Bearing this in mind, Lady Macbeth suffers more than her degenerate love by her levels of guilt.
“The Cursed Play” begins with Macbeth stumbling upon three witches in a dark forest who have been awaiting Macbeth’s introduction. The presumed hero of this tale is greeted by the supernatural witches with “hail to thee, thane of Glamis,” “thane of Cawdor,” and “thou shalt be king hereafter!” (Macbeth ?.iii.49-51). These prophecies slowly alter his opinions on life as he blossoms into a bud of greed, fraud, and tyranny, full of lust and zeal. As the play proceeds, Lady Macbeth, having been informed of this newfound dossier, also begins to transmute her conscience in that her ambitions heighten, and she becomes more domineering. This behemoth of impurity and plague encourages Macbeth to kill the standing king, King Duncan, thereby acknowledging her determination and persistence; however, she fears that her husband lacks the conviction to do what is necessary to seize the throne. “Yet I do fear thy nature, it is too full o’th milk of human kindness. To catch the nearest way thou wouldst be great. Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it.” (Macbeth ?.v.15-19). This doubt is the inciting incident as Lady Macbeth begins to emotionally dissolve her husband. She is the centripetal force behind her husband’s spontaneous passion and she, like a puppet-master, toys with his insecurities of masculinity. “When you durst do it, then you were a man; / And to be more than what you were, you would/ Be so much more the man” (Macbeth I. iv. 49-51). The use of such an allusion in the midst of her atrocious expressions, persuades one that Lady Macbeth has truly felt the parental longings of a mother towards her child, and that she considered this deed to be the most massive that has ever required the strength of human will for its delivery. Lady Macbeth’s language and trapping of her husband is the most robust that guilt could use. For this, Lady Macbeth’s guilt skyrockets.
Lady Macbeth is of a refined and more stately nature when compared to that of her husband. Having locked her gaze upon the end game – the attainment for her husband of Duncan’s throne – she, without hesitation, accepts the inevitable means; she desensititizes herself for a dreadful night’s work through synthetic stimulants, yet she cannot strike her sleeping king for he resembles her father. Having endured her weaker husband, Lady Macbeth’s strength gives way; and in slumber, when her will breaks and she loses control over her thoughts, she is overwhelmed with guilt and is distressingly afflicted by the recollection of one blood stain. This perpetual tormentation is the fruit born from her puppeteering and orchestrations. “Out the damned Out, I say!?One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do’t. Hell is murky!?Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account??Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.” (Macbeth ?. I. 30-34). The fear Lady Macbeth now harbors afflicts her state of mind. Her suffering is unmatched as she continues to live in pain until her untimely suicide. She has felt, seen, and smelled the blood of her fallen king, and for this, she suffers.
While one may argue that Lady Macbeth’s death is an effect of remorse, as some palliation of her crimes, and reduction of suffering, one must realize that Lady Macbeth rather died of guilt, her eternal suffering. To be conscious of guilt is to remorse, and this is a conscience Lady Macbeth never had; though the unrecognized pressure of her great guilt killed her. Her life was destroyed by an unstoppable evil as by which an undetectable disease and broken heart slowly trickled poison into her life force as her impenetrable resolution remained unyielding. Lady Macbeth’s ambition was willing, but the vessel in which one needed to act upon was weak; the body can sin but so much, and survive; and other deadly passions besides those of violence and sensuality can wear away its fine tissues, and undermine what is left of one’s goodness. Lady Macbeth’s mortality succumbed to the unbearable weight of wickedness and suffering which her immortal soul had power to sustain; and, having destroyed its banausic house of earthly residence, that soul, unexhausted by its damnation, went forth into its new abode of eternity, an infinitude of suffering. Lady Macbeth is incapable of any salutary spasm of hopeful paroxysm of mental horror, or moral anguish which outlines her suffering to be greater than that of anyone else’s.