Lady Macbeth is a “fiend-like queen” Discuss


“I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums and dash’d the brains out”. Such is the wickedness of Lady Macbeth, a woman of ‘gall’ and ‘direst cruelty’. Echoing the words of the supernatural forces, she diverts the courage of her husband to the courage of evil. Inspiring in him the spirit of self-assertiveness, she pours ‘her evil spirits’ in his ear to crush ‘the compunctious visitings’ of his human nature, compelling him to commit the terrible deeds. She appears the outward symbol of evil, the devious, cruel, ‘fiend-like queen’ who suppresses humanity and unleashes darkness and chaos upon the world.


At the commencement of the play, Lady Macbeth appears to divert Macbeth’s courage depicted in battle bravery into the courage to unleash his ambition. She knows that Macbeth is ‘too full of the milk of human kindness’ to take the short-cut of murder and fulfil his will for power. Thus, she appeals not to his reason, but to his lust for power that is suppressed beneath his essential nature. She looms as the embodiment of lustful self-assertive forces in Macbeth, turning his natural ‘milk of human kindness’ into ‘gall’. Blood imagery may be seen to be representative of this, where the blood of ‘bloody execution’ on the sword of ‘valiant’ Macbeth, is turned into one of evil and guilt, the ‘gouts of blood’ on his ‘dagger of the mind’. This dagger may be seen to symbolize the change in him caused by Lady Macbeth, the corruption of ‘brave Macbeth’, to ‘black Macbeth’, the ‘dead butcher’ who ‘murdered sleep’.


Lady Macbeth also appears to show perception and insight into her husband’s character. She is aware that Macbeth shrinks with horror at the terrible effects his actions will have on his ‘state of man’ and of the society he will create. Thus she endeavours to repel his natural horrors that makes him ‘unseated heart knock at his ribs against the use of nature’. She endeavours to scorn his moral and religious fears and blind him to the social and spiritual consequences with the promise that ‘a little water will cleanse us of this deed’. She is the ‘boundless intemperance’ that caters to his lust for power, stealing him to the deed. While she does not physically commit the murder, she is the hidden face, the true evil behind the crime, controlling the mind of her husband. It is this psychological control over Macbeth that may be seen to appropriately label her the satanic stature of a ‘fiend-like queen’.


Furthermore, Lady Macbeth may also be seen to echo the function of the supernatural. These ‘instruments of darkness’ appear in thunder and lighting as ‘secret, black and midnight hags’. The darkness of these witches may be interpreted as representative of counter productiveness, temptation, and evil. Lady Macbeth is shown to embrace and welcome such darkness, evident when she calls: “Come, thick night, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell”. Her allegiance with evil is further exemplified in her gruesome scheme to kill Duncan. To plot the murder of God’s representative for mankind’s natural order on earth, and to propose the smearing of his scared blood, can be seen as a direct rejection of God’s Order. Moreover, she calls upon the evil ‘spirits that tend on mortal thoughts’ to ‘come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall’, removing all her womanly nature. This rejection of her womanliness may be interpreted as the dismissal of her essential goodness – love, honour and esteem.


Some may contend that towards the end of the play Lady Macbeth is full of remorse, weakness and hence deserves our sympathy. Such a suggestion may well be challenged. Towards the end of the play, Lady Macbeth shows a display of insanity and an inability to sleep, resulting in her nightly sleep walking. This unnaturalness may be interpreted as symbolic of natures’ revenge for her ‘great perturbation in nature’, depriving her of the basic naturalness which all humans need – ‘the benefit of sleep’. It may also be seen to be representative of the torment of hell she experiences. However, this inner hell of guilt taking place in her mind is one of