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Lady Macbeth Evil Essay

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The Evil of Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is depicted as being much worse than her husband in Shakespeare�s play, Macbeth. Although they both think of murdering King Duncan as soon as they hear the witches' prophecies, Macbeth thinks more about what he may or may not do, whereas Lady Macbeth immediately appeals to evil spirits to give her the strength to kill Duncan.

When Macbeth first hears the prophecies, and when the prophecies begin to be fulfilled, he does think of killing the king, but also, towards the end of Act 1, Scene 3, he thinks that perhaps he doesn't need to do anything to become the king : "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir." On the other hand, Lady Macbeth, on receiving the letter telling her about the witches' prophecies, she immediately thinks that she and Macbeth will have to kill king Duncan. She also decides that Macbeth is too nice to kill the king, sayin that he "is too ful o' the milk of human kindness" and when she hears the Duncan will visit their castle that night, she immediately appeals to the evil spirits, to (ironically) give her the strength to kill the king. In Act 1, Scene 7,� Macbeth is doubtfull of Lady Macbeth's plot to kill the king. He doesn't think that he will be able to live with the guilt of killing his king while he is staying under his very roof, and then decides that he will not kill the king. This shows that Macbeth is thinking about what he is going to do, and shows that he does feel guilt and is weighing up the situation, unlike Lady Macbeth who never thinks twice about killing the king. When Lady Macbeth notices that Macbeth has left the room, she goes to speak to him. Macbeth firmly tells her that they will not kill the king : "we will proceed no further in this business".� Lady Macbeth, however, tells him that his love is worth nothing if he refuses to go through with the plan, saying that his love is as accountable as his indecisiveness. Macbeth wants his wife to love him and wants her to trust him, so he agrees to go through with their plan.

The way Macbeth questions and thinks about killing the king shows that he knows that killing the king is wrong and that he will feel guilty if he does so. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth never questions or worries about killing the king. She never worries that they will be caught and never worries that she will feel guilty. Unlike Macbeth, she never weighs up what they are going to do and instead jumps straight into it without thinking.

These examples indicate that Lady Macbeth is far worse than Macbeth, because Macbeth thinks about what he is doing, whereas Lady Macbeth jumps straight into it, blinded by her own ambition.

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Your question presumes that Shakespeare portrays Lady Macbeth as evil and cunning; while she does do some pretty awful things, I'd characterize her as ambitious and ruthless.  In either case, Shakespeare is clear in his portrayal of her, which we can see by examining her behavior throughout the course of the play.

The first time we meet her, she is reading a letter from her husband telling her of the witches' promising predictions for his future. There is, apparently, love between them; Macbeth wants to share his fortuitous news with the woman he loves.  She undoubtedly loves him, too; however, she seems to know him well enough to be nervous for their future. 

The first words she speaks after finishing the letter paint her husband--a man great in valor and unafraid of battle--as a man lacking in ambition.  That's not true, as we find out later, but he clearly has less ambition than his wife.  She's afraid he won't be willing to do what needs to be done (presumably murder) to achieve the goal (becoming King of Scotland).  Once he arrives in person, she begins her campaign to spur her husband's ambition into action.

On the night of the Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth has to re-convince her husband to do the deed.  She is ruthless in her ambition, insulting his manhood and impugning his courage, saying she will do it if he is unwilling or unable.  When it comes down to it, though, she can't commit this cold-blooded murder--the one thing which saves her from being evil in my book. 

It's true that she is perfectly willing to goad her husband to commit murder; it's true she dispassionately both sets up and stages the crime scene; and it's true she is right behind Macbeth in these evil deeds, prodding him to action and telling him a little water will wash away their guilt.

Soon after, though, Macbeth must sense some softening in his wife, for he fails to confide his next murderous plans to her. He plans and executes the murder of Banquo and the assassination of MacDuff and his family without telling her.  His resolve grows as hers, apparently wanes. 

In her most famous scene, she finally succumbs to her guilty conscience, unsuccessfully attempting wash her hands clean of Duncan's blood.  Eventually Lady Macbeth takes her own life, apparently from that same sense of guilt.  It strikes me that an evil, cunning person would probably not have had any compunctions about her actions.

While Lady Macbeth is ruthless in her ambition and does achieve the Crown, she is unable to enjoy it because she is not as evil as some of her actions suggest.  She is racked with guilt and dies separated, at least emotionally, from the husband she was a partner to at one time.  Lady Macbeth is not a sympathetic character; however, she may not be an evil one, either.

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