Lady Macbeth in The Tragedy of Macbeth; the “Iron Butterfly”In William Shakespeare’s, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is the dominator of the play. Lady Macbeth’s character is not as eclectic as her husband’s but it is just as dramatic.
Lady Macbeth has a rich and fascinating combination of qualities. She is not a monster without feeling; her husband adores her, for example, “Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,” (III, ii, 45). Macbeth also refers to Lady Macbeth as his dear partner. Lady Macbeth is horrified by blood and during her sleepwalking soliloquy she refers to her little hand suggesting a delicate nature and stature by uttering this: “All the perfumes / of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” (V, i, 43-44). All of this, however, does very little to soften her true nature.
She is sly and artful as she urges Macbeth to kill Duncan and she is particularly treacherous when she continually urges him to shake off his torments. For example, in this scene from the play, Shakespeare gives the reader an idea of the twist that he gives her personality and how ruthless she can be:
I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this. (I, vii, 54-59).
In the next examples you can see how she persuades Macbeth to ignore his torments of his guilt of the murder: “These deeds must not be thought / After these ways; so, it will make us mad. ” (II, ii, 33-34), and “Why, worthy thane, / You do unbend your noble strength, to think / So brainsickly of things?” (II, ii, 43-45). Seemingly, she suffers no pangs of conscience. It is easy for her to be “bright” and “merry” and it seems second nature for her to play at being the most gracious of hostesses. Duncan is completely deceived by her “thoughtfulness.” Also, take in consideration that in the midst of her chaotic dinner party, she retains her composure and saves her husband from added embarrassment.
In today’s vernacular, she might accurately be characterized as being an “iron butterfly”-delicate but invincible. She is impatient and absolute when her husband cannot carry out the details of their assassination plot. Although it is Macbeth who commits the actual deed of murder, it is Lady Macbeth who returns to Duncan’s chamber and smears the blood upon the grooms. Her self-control is superhuman; in fact, Macbeth is terrified of it and her unfailing resourcefulness. In this example, Shakespeare demonstrates how much self control she has over the evil deed: “A little water clears us of this deed: / How easy it is then!” (II, ii, 66-67). In fact, Lady Macbeth tried to murder Duncan herself, but he appeared to look like her father while he was sleeping so she could not.
Selfishly, she fastens her husband’s attention on the throne of Scotland. It is she who sees to the details of the crime: “Only look up clear. / To alter favor ever is to fear. / Leave all the rest to me.” (I, vi, 69-71). It is she who is more concerned that Macbeth has failed to kill Duncan, when he reconsiders the murder, than the possibility that their plans have been exposed. It is she, rather than Macbeth, who says,
Go get some water,
And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
They must lie there: go carry them, and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood. (II, ii, 45-49).
She immediately perceives that the blood and the daggers are incriminating and admonishes Macbeth for being so foolish.Throughout the play, her courage and her practicality work together successfully.
It is only in private that Lady Macbeth shows her weariness. Almost naively, she urges Macbeth to sleep and, here, her faith in sleep is deeply ironical. It is only after she has suffered a mental breakdown, that you realize how deeply her crimes have haunted her. This is an quotation from the play from the scene where is Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking and has gone mad: “The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she / now? What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” (V, i, 37-38). The doctor tells the Gentlewoman that he is unable to tell what is wrong with her, however, he possibly diagnoses her with evil practices:
Foul whisp’rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds
To their deaf pillow will discharge their secrets.
More needs the divine than the physician. (V, i, 62-65).
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Shakespeare illustrates how Lady Macbeth truly controls the entire play. The final result of the many evil deeds that she participated in was death. Lady Macbeth went completely insane from her ill natures and left Macbeth alone to obtain all of the faults. However, Shakespeare makes sure that the reader realizes that she is diverse in her abilities and her character. Lady Macbeth is, in today’s colloquial, the “iron butterfly” in the play.