Evil in Women and its Effect on Macbeth
“…My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man that function Is smother’d in surmise, and nothing is But what is not.” (1.3.140-143). Throughout Shakespeare’s play, we see that Macbeth is the victim of evil seduction by women. In the above quote the evil is perpetrated by the witches. Lady Macbeth also plays a strong role in his moral corruption. “… the influence of Lady Macbeth (though she too has an inarticulate angel struggling against her own evil), and the instigation of a supernatural power all combine to crush his better nature.” (Boyce 391). Macbeth would not have even thought of killing Duncan, if it were not for the influence of the witches and his wife.
Historically, man has been corrupted by woman. Going back to the story of Adam and Eve, we see such an example. “.. she took of the fruit thereof, and she did eat it; and she gave it unto her husband…” (Genesis 3.6). Eve, out of fear, beguiled Adam. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the witches, succumbing to greed, corrupted Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth’s actions parallel those of the witches. The witches planted the idea that Macbeth should become king. Lady Macbeth followed through with this idea by pushing Macbeth to kill Duncan. “… a very definition of the weird sisters – calling on them to unsex her to cram her with cruelty from top to toe…” (Bloom 29). This quote illustrates the connection between Lady Macbeth and the witches, showing us that they both participated in Macbeth’s moral decline. Shakespeare, it seems, utilizes the symbol of the witches to portray the basic evil inherent in Lady Macbeth. One could not have worked without the other. If it were only the witches’ prophecies, then Macbeth would surely not have murdered Duncan. It was because Lady Macbeth constantly harassed her husband, that he was driven to commit all this evil. “… her blood thickened, her milk changed to gaul – into the inhuman, the distortion of nature…” (Ludwyk 233). This illustrates the complete metamorphosis of Lady Macbeth from a loving, beautiful, caring, kind wife to a ruthless, nasty, shrew of a woman. The women in this play distort Macbeth’s intuition so much that he thinks he is doing the right thing. “… his liberty of free choice is determined more and more by evil inclination and that he can not choose the better course…” (Bloom 55). Even after the deed is done, Lady Macbeth greets her husband and “… her greeting recalls the weird sisters.” (Ludwyk 233). This teaches us that even after the murder is done she does not return to her former self.
This evil tears them apart. In the beginning of the play Macbeth calls his wife, “…my dearest partner of greatness…” (1.5.11-12). At the end of the play, however, when Lady Macbeth kills herself, he shows no sympathy.”… she should have died here after…” (5.5.17).
Lady Macbeth uses every weapon in her arsenal, moral or immoral, to corrupt Macbeth. “… Lady Macbeth makes a sex weapon in her efforts to spur Macbeth’s ambition.” (Boyce 391). This shows that Lady Macbeth sexually enticed Macbeth in addition to her constant nagging. She succeeded in manipulating him. “She calls him ‘My Husband’ (2.2.13) when he has just killed the king . This – the only time she calls him ‘Husband’ – suggests that she finds him sexually impressive in his gore.” (Ibid). Lady Macbeth actually feeds off of Macbeth’s acts of violence. She is stimulated by his savagery.
Macbeth is not so innocent. “… evil is a perversion of human values, and the fact that he persisted in his awareness demonstrates a profound moral disorder.” (Boyce 391). The fact that Macbeth persisted shows that he knew that what he was doing was wrong. Yet, he continued to murder.
Shakespeare opened his play with the scene of the witches to portray evil in the mind of the audience. The audience could understand the evil that the witches represented. Lady Macbeth, however, conjures up an image of royalty, loyalty and goodness. In order to help us overcome our initial opinion of Lady Macbeth, and allow us to accept her