Is Lady Macbeth the Real Driving Force Behind Duncan’s Murder?
Macbeth “Lady Macbeth is the real driving force behind the murder of King Duncan” Discuss this statement and decide whether or not you agree. Known as one of the most influential writers in history, Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford upon Avon. During the 17th century Shakespeare rose to more fame and became one of the popular playwright writers across the globe. Altogether his collection of master pieces is 154 heart-wrenching sonnets and 37 compelling plays. ‘Macbeth’ delivers a powerful message about a tale of greed and a hunger for power which leads to tragic consequences.
Macbeth is a naive character who is the protagonist of the play. He is one of the noble men for the king and this highlight to the reader of the loyal and trusted position he carries. Subsequently, we find that Macbeth is from an honourable family. ‘By Sinel’s death I know I am thane of Glamis’ This also shows that he is of a high class, strengthening his character as being trustworthy and of an honourable status. Macbeth as a sincere character which does not last for long once the three witches ‘plant the seed’ in Macbeth’s mind.
During the play, Macbeth has issues with his desires and loyalty towards the king. The three witches appear in front of Macbeth and Banquo. They portray their prophecies which have an impulsive influence on Macbeth making him ‘thunderstruck’ at the thought of ever being admired enough to become king. This consumes Macbeth with disturbing thoughts when they refer to him as the ‘thane of Cawdor’ and the ‘future king’. These make Macbeth compelled in the witches predictions.
He may react in this spontaneous manner becoming ‘speechless’ because he has a desire to gain a higher status and may have had thoughts of murdering Duncan previously. Macbeth becomes eager and impatient, ‘stay’, ‘I charge you’ shows that he is commanding the witches because he is desperate to hear his future. This introduces a completely different side to Macbeth as being, he has been given the title of ‘thane of Cawdor’ yet he still wants more. His curiosity and frustrated behaviour shows that he already had a hidden desire of ambition.
The witches have an obvious impact on Macbeth, as he starts to talk to himself and a horrid image of ‘murdering king Duncan’ is placed in his mind. This is a huge contrast to the Macbeth we were shown earlier who was a ‘noble’ and ‘loyal’ person we are shown this so that we can observe how he changes from being ‘faithful’ to disloyal. We see that Macbeth finds murdering Duncan unnecessary and decides to leave it up to fate; “If chance will have me king, why chance may even crown me without stir… This shows that Macbeth doubts that murder is required in order to fulfil the prophecy and become king. It also shows that Macbeth is an indecisive character as he has still not made his mind on what approach to take, the reader is unsure of what Macbeth will decide. Macbeth instantly writes a letter to his wife Lady Macbeth, displaying his eagerness to spread his new found news, this shows that he felt that there was some truth in the witches’ prophecy. Lady Macbeth is a striking character, who is introduced as Macbeth’s wife and long term companion.
Shakespeare contrasts the role of Macbeth to women of the 17th century who would have been at home and submissive towards their husbands. Lady Macbeth seems like the more dominating person in the relationship “You shall put this night’s great business into my dispatch, which shall to all our nights and days to come” This shows that even though she is not actually going to perform the murderous act, she has decided to take control of the situation by handling the preparations as she believes that he husband is not competent enough to do it himself.
The fact that Lady Macbeth only takes part in the planning and not the crime illustrates that she does not need to worry about the consequences of their vengeful scheme, there might not be any consequences for her as she did not commit the vicious act of murder. Lady Macbeth is a sly woman who desires for more control, this is reflected upon the advice she gives to Macbeth. Look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t” Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to be like a snake which symbolises wickedness, portraying that she is not a good influence on Macbeth, this could confirm Lady Macbeth’s real character that even if she may appear to be innocent she really is an immoral and cunning character. She decides to take the matter into her own hands by planning Duncan’s murder her plan involves getting the servants drunk. “…. is two chamberlains will I with wine and wassail so convince that memory, the warder of the brain, shall be convince a fume, and the receipt of reason” She is very intelligent and has thought ahead so that the plot does not fail. She has decided to make the plan herself because maybe she does not trust Macbeth enough. Macbeth himself is not too keen on committing the murder without Lady Macbeth aggravating him, this also shows that she is the one with the desire and the plans; she wants to be the Queen of Scotland.
This makes the reader aware of Lady Macbeth’s negative characteristics, which she possesses, also making the reader feel angry towards her for consuming Macbeth with evil thoughts. Lady Macbeth tries to force Macbeth into making a decision through manipulation, but Macbeth does his best to try and put off this decision about whether or not to murder Duncan; “we will speak further”, this shows that Macbeth is reluctant to end the conversation about murdering Duncan, at this point Macbeth has still not made up his mind.
This makes the reader aware of Macbeth’s state of mind , it also portrays his human qualities that although he is plotting a murder he is feeling guilty at his wicked thoughts this makes the reader sympathetic towards him that he is in this situation and is confused on which path to follow and whether or not he should listen to Lady Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth somehow manages to be manipulative towards Macbeth this is portrayed through her approach to Macbeth’s refusal to continue in the plot with the use of phrases like “live like a coward” this shows Lady Macbeths manipulative qualities and the way she has manipulated the situation to get an outcome which benefits her and Macbeth. As she knows what to say to infuriate him she decides to challenge his manhood; “When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more the man… ” She decides to challenge this because she knows he feels very strongly towards it.
This shows the reader that Lady Macbeth will take all sorts of steps as well as having a corrupting approach of bullying Macbeth into murdering Duncan. Throughout the play Macbeth is uncertain on what he should; “If we should fail? ” this shows Macbeth’s fickle behaviour, his questioning his wife as if she has all the answers and knows the future, it makes the reader aware of his low confidence and more sympathetic towards his state of mind he is not the one making the decisions he is leaving them for Lady Macbeth to make.
Macbeth is eventually persuaded by his wife into murdering Duncan, “I am settled, and bend up each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Away, and mock the time with fairest show. ” He is reluctant and has now come to the conclusion that he wants to do all in his power to achieve his aim, and make his ambition come true. He is fearful “I’ll go no more I am afraid to think what I have done; Look o’t again I dare not. ”
This shows that Macbeth is frightened: he does not want to take a chance in going back to the scene where Duncan’s murder took place, because he may get discovered even though it is in order to perfect the crime scene. He is even afraid of his own thoughts, which shows that Duncan’s death has had an impacted on his vulnerable mental state. The individual to blame for the murder of Duncan is debatable as there are several characters that have a hand in his death.
Could it be the witches who planted the seed of becoming King into Macbeth’s head? Macbeth himself who committed the murderous act, or is it Lady Macbeth who cunningly drove Macbeth into committing the murder? Although this is true, Lady Macbeth is the real driving force behind the murder of King Duncan. She is a stronger and more ruthless, who is determined to get what she desires; she is more influential in her decisions than Macbeth.
She is fully aware of Macbeth’s boundaries and to what extent she has to push him in order to make him kill Duncan. At one point so furious at Macbeth for being a ‘coward’ that she wanted to become a man herself. The three witches, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are all responsible for Duncan’s death. From this we can draw a conclusion that although all these characters played a role in Duncan’s murder Lady Macbeth has a stronger pressure as she kept giving Macbeth sly comments she drove Macbeth into Murdering King Duncan.