Lady Macbeth’s Scheme to Murder Duncan

Act 1: Scene 5

In Macbeth’s castle, Lady Macbeth privately reads a letter from her husband. The letter reveals that Macbeth has been promoted to the thaneship of Cawdor and recounts his encounter with the witches. Lady Macbeth acknowledges Macbeth’s ambition but worries that he lacks the ruthlessness required to become king. Determined to seize the crown, she resolves to persuade him to take the necessary steps. A messenger interrupts and informs Lady Macbeth that the king is approaching the castle, accompanied by Macbeth. As she waits for her husband, Lady Macbeth delivers a famous speech, calling upon dark spirits to rid her of her femininity and fill her with the utmost cruelty. She vows to disregard her natural instincts in order to commit the bloody deeds necessary to claim the throne. Macbeth enters, and they discuss the king’s impending visit. Macbeth informs his wife that Duncan plans to depart the following day, but Lady Macbeth declares that the king will never live to see tomorrow. She reassures her husband to be patient and entrusts the plan to her.

Act 1: Scene 6

Outside Macbeth’s castle, Duncan, accompanied by Scottish lords and attendants, arrives. Impressed by the castle’s pleasant surroundings, Duncan expresses his gratitude to Lady Macbeth, who greets him. Lady Macbeth responds by stating that it is her duty to be hospitable, emphasizing her indebtedness to the king. Duncan then requests to see Macbeth, whom he holds in high regard and loves dearly.

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Act 1: Scene 7

Inside the castle, as musicians play and servants prepare for the evening’s feast, Macbeth paces back and forth, contemplating the idea of killing Duncan. He acknowledges that the act would be simple if it didn’t carry dire consequences. While Macbeth is willing to risk eternal damnation, he realizes that even on Earth, violent actions come back to haunt the perpetrators. He considers the reasons why he shouldn’t kill Duncan: Macbeth is Duncan’s relative, subject, and host, and the king is universally respected as a virtuous ruler. Macbeth recognizes that these circumstances provide him with no justification for the murder and that his ambition alone is an unreliable guide.

Lady Macbeth enters and informs her husband that the king has dined and has been inquiring about Macbeth. Macbeth declares that he has changed his mind and no longer intends to go through with the plan. Outraged, Lady Macbeth berates him as a coward and questions his masculinity. She taunts him, reminding him that he was a real man when he had the courage to consider the murder. Macbeth asks her about the consequences if their plan fails. Lady Macbeth assures him that their boldness will ensure their success. She then reveals her scheme: while Duncan is asleep, she will intoxicate his chamberlains with wine, allowing her and Macbeth to enter and kill the king. To shift the blame, they will smear Duncan’s blood on the sleeping chamberlains. Astonished by the brilliance and audacity of her plan, Macbeth praises his wife’s fearlessness and hopes that she will only give birth to male children. He agrees to proceed with the murder.

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Analysis: Act 1: Scenes 5-7

These scenes revolve around Lady Macbeth, the most memorable character in the play. Her impassioned soliloquies in Act 1, scenes 5 and 7, showcase her strong will, overshadowing that of her husband. Lady Macbeth recognizes the disparity in their determination and realizes she must manipulate him into fulfilling the witches’ prophecy. Her soliloquy in Act 1, scene 5, delves into gender roles, specifically the value and nature of masculinity. Rejecting her feminine traits, she implores to be stripped of her womanhood and transformed into an instrument of violence. These statements reflect Lady Macbeth’s belief that manhood is defined by the willingness to kill. In Act 1, scene 7, when Macbeth hesitates to murder Duncan, Lady Macbeth challenges his masculinity, drawing an implicit parallel between his ability to carry out the murder and his ability to engage in a sexual act. Throughout the play, whenever Macbeth displays uncertainty, Lady Macbeth insinuates that he lacks masculinity.

Macbeth comments that Lady Macbeth should only give birth to sons due to her boldness and bravery. His immediate compliance with her wishes implies both a compliment and an affirmation that courage and brilliance are masculine traits. However, this remark also suggests that Macbeth is considering his legacy. He regards Lady Macbeth’s audacity and masculinity as heroic and warrior-like, while Lady Macbeth exploits her supposed masculine virtues for dark and cruel intentions. Unlike Macbeth, Lady Macbeth seems solely focused on immediate power.

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