Part of the English program for juniors at Boston Latin Academy is to read Macbeth. This was the first work by Shakespeare that I actually enjoyed (at BLA, we read at least one of his plays a year). The Tempest had no point (and I don't remember it, except for it not having a point), Romeo and Juliet wasn't fun because you already knew the story, Julius Caesar was just over my head, Othello was half-decent (but only half), and The Taming of the Shrew was just OK. But Macbeth! Combine eleventh century Scotland with murder, ghosts, and witches, and you've got one very cool play. Because I was in English Honors last year (and am now in AP), we wrote two essays about Macbeth. I got a B+ on each one. *sigh* If you are laughing at me because you get all A's, then try this on for size - YOUR SCHOOL SUCKS AND DEMANDS NOTHING OF ITS STUDENTS, SO THEY GIVE YOU EASY WORK. (Unless you go to BLA or BLS.) So therefore, my B+ would be like an A+++++ in your school. *sticks out tongue*
But enough bullshit. What better way to celebrate Halloween than with such a play as Macbeth? How else can I justify having two Halloween-themed pages in a row? Oh, my teacher would be proud.
Lady Macbeth Speech Analysis (1/14/03)
The initial soliloquy given by Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth is passionate, rousing, and downright disturbing. One can nearly see the background behind her darken as her biting words pierce the air, and hear the thunder crashing over those words and she gives each sentence a formidable end. Lady Macbeth wants her femininity to be taken from her so that her evil plans will be sure to pull through (as seen in lines 44-51: "Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood, stop up th' access and passage to remorse, that no compunctious visitings of nature shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between th' effect and take it!"), but the extent of her passion leads one to wonder just how serious she truly is about all this prattling on about how she wants to become a nightmarish version of herself. It is assumed that the spirits to whom Lady Macbeth is haranguing are not new to her morbid yet at the same time childish pleas. The spirits being referred to as "murd'ring ministers" (a memorable usage of alliteration found in line 52), shows that this assumption may well be a correct one.
Lady Macbeth wants to be "unsexed" (line 45) because she wants to be her husband's accomplice, and how can she take on such a bloodthirsty role if she is female? Women in eleventh-century Scotland (indeed, in all places throughout history) were expected to keep house and raise children, and Lady Macbeth is stating loud and clear that as long as she is physically able to produce the milk which fed every baby (until the invention of store-bought formulas only recently), she is still linked to a gender of too great a warmth and kindness to become what she aspires to become. Males, the hunters and murderers and war farers of history, have never been able to produce milk, but certainly have honed their skills at beheading and slicing open and quartering their enemies. Lady Macbeth wants to gain these characteristics, and to do so must have to lose those which God had originally given her.
A psychologist might suggest that Lady Macbeth's personality was born from a want of attention as a child. Why else would she go gallivanting about, wailing at spirits, putting all the "oomph" any early 20th-century vaudevillian could muster into each wail - perhaps to hear her own voice and get satisfaction from her noise? Few people are truly evil and cruel at heart. It is difficult to immediately assume that Lady Macbeth has sincere, heartfelt murderous intentions, for a legitimate murderer or murderess will have carried out their plan, or at least do some preparations, in the same time it has taken Lady Macbeth to beg the gods to thicken her blood and destroy her capacity for remorse and goodness. If she is asking for these elements of her character to be removed, then obviously they had been with her in the first place. Since they had been with her in the first plae, Lady Macbeth is probably just a woman who enjoys hearing herself talk, and hearing the explosive things she thinks up to say.
Read the second essay by clicking here.