I love it when a student suddenly gets brave and writes something that is worthy of adding here, so we shall call this student S, to hide his identity, but when asked to complete a past paper question on Macbeth and how the character of Lady Macbeth changes, starting at Act 5 Scene 1 and mentioning other parts of the play, he did this for me.
Student Exam Answer (completed within the given exam time frame)
On the whole, in act 5 scene 1, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as guilt ridden and melancholic because this is a poignant moment in the play. This is because she has killed King Duncan with her husband and she is feeling the guilt attached to the act.
Lady Macbeth is guilt ridden and this is shown in the text when she says “Hell is murky” in her mind. Because she is sleep walking, she is reliving the after effects of killing Duncan. In her waking moments, she is too aware of what she has done, but because she is sleepwalking, she is not conscious of the words or actions she is expressing. These are the things that the Doctor and the Gentlewoman see or hear and this is why they are confused. In support of this the Doctor says, “the heart is sorely charged” when observing Lady Macbeth’s words and actions and the Gentlewomen says, “heaven knows what she has known,” which shows the level of her unhinged nature at this moment in the play. There is a sense of melancholy in Lady Macbeth at this moment which makes this a very poignant moment in the play because it shows her guilt and the taboos she has taken part in.
Before the death of King Duncan she is a different personality to the rest of the play. However, she is manipulative towards her husband and exploitative. When she first receives the letter she starts to exploit Macbeth because of her avaricious nature. For example she tells her husband “look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under’t.” The serpent is a biblical allusion referring to the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent (Devil) in the Garden of Eden. Additionally, Lady Macbeth portrays herself and women in general as being weak and feeble in their gender.
After Act 5 Scene 1, she begins to unravel and loses her grasp on reality, which leads to her killing herself. This starts in Act 5 scene 1 when the doctor says, “this disease is beyond my practice,” which implies at the time that madness is seen as an incurable disease. Furthermore, when Lady Macbeth says, “to bed, to bed: there’s knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come give me your hand: what’s done cannot be undone” shows the depth of her mental struggle and the emotions that Lady Macbeth is going through. When she then says, “what’s done cannot be undone” she is talking to Macbeth in her sleep and is implying that even though Macbeth has killed Duncan, he cannot change that and he should continue with life as it was before he killed Duncan.
In conclusion, Lady Macbeth at the start of the play is seen as a very persuasive person as she manipulates her husband, but near the end of the play, her true form is shown as she spirals out of control, leading to her death.
Can you do any better?