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In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth plays a very influential and controlling character. At the end of the play, Malcolm describes Lady Macbeth as Macbeth’s “fiend-like” or devil-like queen, because of her involvement with Macbeth throughout his betrayal of Scotland. Lady Macbeth’s “fiend-like” qualities are justified in many instances early throughout the play.
Lady Macbeth, since we first meet her in Act 1, Scene 5, was driven by ambition and power. In the beginning, she was the driving force behind Macbeth to murder King Duncan, as she believed Macbeth was morally not capable of committing the act. She believed that Macbeth “art not without ambition, but without the illness that should attend it” (Line 18), and so she dedicated herself to this action, so to gain acclaim and glory for her husband, promised by the witches previously. Her “unsex me” speech portrays her ambition for this goal. In this speech she wants to eliminate her conscience completely, to act out the murder. She wanted to remove all feminine aspects, like compassion, love, and remorse, to “make thick her blood” and to fill her “from crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty” (Line 41) so that she could deceit others and commit the sinful venture. In doing this, she turned from the natural to unnatural, as turning from God to Satan, making her a “fiend-like” queen.
To manipulate her husband into literally committing the murder of King Duncan, she also began to attack his manhood, Macbeth’s evident weakness, shown in Act 1, Scene 7. Without the use of violence, she convinced Macbeth that her ideas and plots would work, and would lead them to power. Although Macbeth did strike back to her hurtful words, she would always retaliate to the defence Macbeth held. For example, when Macbeth said “I dare do all that may become a man; who dares do more, is none” (Line 46) trying to convince her that he should not go through with it, she strikes back telling Macbeth “what beast was’t, then, that made you break this enterprise to me?” (Line 48), questioning that if he were the man he suggests he would not have even suggested the matter in the first place.
Her “fiend-like” qualities were only further expressed in Act , Scene , after Macbeth had killed King Duncan, and was in a state of extreme guilt and confusion. This was evident to Lady Macbeth when she said, “my hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white” (Line 64). Macbeth had walked into the courtyard carrying the stained dagger he used to kill King Duncan, and with his hands smeared with blood. He was in such a delusional state (“Methought I heard a voice cry…”-Line 5) that he neglected his bloody hands, and did not completely finish the plan intended by Lady Macbeth, as he did not yet frame the groomsmen for the crime. When Lady Macbeth discovered the plan was not finished, she made it her responsibility to complete the plan to save them both-“I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal; for it must seem their guilt” (Line 56). She took control of the situation and handled the mishaps, to succeed for her and her husband.
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Act , Scene 4, showed another example of Lady Macbeth’s qualities. After the murder of Banquo, Macbeth began to see Banquo’s “ghost” at Banquo’s feast. Macbeth was acting suspicious and kept disturbing their guests. It was then that Lady Macbeth stepped in and excused Macbeth from the party, explaining it to the guests, (“the fit is momentary; upon a thought he will again be well”-Line 55) before speaking to Macbeth alone. Here Lady Macbeth questions and attacks his manhood again, as he was deemed unable to differentiate reality from imagination. Lady Macbeth suggests to Macbeth that he is weak and that the ghosts he is seeing is “the very painting of your (Macbeth) own fear”, meaning that he is only seeing that of which he fears. She continually took care of the situation at hand, covering up for Macbeth’s mistakes, and manipulating people their guests, and friends.
Throughout the entire play, Lady Macbeth had a very pivotal role and was involved with many of Macbeth’s actions. She became the voice in Macbeth’s head, his right hand, and his perfect queen. Considering the actions made in they play by her and her husband, Malcolm spoke truth when regarding Lady Macbeth as Macbeth’s “fiend-like” queen.
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