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About Me:I am a student at sixth-form currently studying Economics, Biology & Philosophy and Ethics. My articles are mainly focused on Philosophy and explores the different approaches to ethics. They are written in a way which can be used for revision purposes.
Whilst scanning my bookshelf in an attempt to choose a book to read, I managed to stumble upon Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ – a play I studied as a part of my English Literature and Drama GCSE. I decided to give it another read as I remember enjoying the play greatly and whilst I turned each page it re-triggered the excitement and fascination that initially captivated me into this book. The sophistication and techniques in which Shakespeare conveys themes always leaves me in awe, however whilst re-reading the play I found myself beginning to get bored as I was aware of the hidden synonyms and fragmented structures which illustrated the theme of ‘ambition’ constantly being taught to us and so I decided to search for a new, less obvious theme which would enrich the text further.
Now if you’ve studied Macbeth before, I’m sure the first theme you were told to note was ‘ambition.’ Whilst this is a key theme running throughout Shakespeare’s classic, I feel like the theme of ‘doubt’ is far more fascinating, yet less obvious to discover. This theme was particularly evident in Macbeth, as expected, but more interestingly conveyed in his wife Lady Macbeth.
One way in which Shakespeare presents doubts and uncertainties in the play is through the character Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth instantly doubts her husband’s ability to kill the king, as she believes that Macbeth is “too full o’th’ milk of human kindness.” This illustrates that Lady Macbeth thinks that her husband is too kind and sympathetic – however this is simply a natural part of human nature. It could also be a metaphor to suggest that Macbeth is too much like a woman, as the word “milk” has connotations of a woman breast-feeding their child. Therefore this description of Macbeth in her soliloquy reveals Lady Macbeth’s doubts about Macbeth being too sympathetic, which she fears could stop him from catching “the nearest way” and murdering Duncan as a shortcut to the throne.
Not only does Lady Macbeth doubt her husband, but she also doubts her own femininity and capability of killing Duncan. This is revealed when she calls upon evil spirits to “unsex me here” and “come to my women’s breasts and take my milk for gall.” This implies that Lady Macbeth wants to be stripped of her femininity, as the words “breasts” and “milk” are both representations of womanhood and symbols of nurture. Therefore, Lady Macbeth is suggesting that possessing these womanly features is stopping her from committing acts of evil and violence, as it is something that only a man can do – hence why she is asking the spirits to unsex her.
Shakespeare further presents this idea through the structure of her speech. The majority of Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy is written in Iambic Pentameter, however lines such as “fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty” are too long to fit the Iambic Pentameter verse rhythm. Shakespeare may have purposely done this to represent how Lady Macbeth’s murderous thoughts are similarly too much for her woman’s body – which is exactly why she is wishing for all the things which make her woman to be taken away from her and to instead be filled with masculinity.
Mind-blowing, right? If you haven’t already I would definitely recommend studying a copy.