Evidence of Lady Macbeth being “Fiend-like” is found when she summons spirits to help her. “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.” This means that she wants spirits of darkness to come and take her “weak” womanly qualities and replace them with bitterness, wickedness, and cruelty from head to toe. She doesn’t want to be laidened with guilt after. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to hide his thoughts and feelings to “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” At this point in the play we only receive a slight hint of instability with her calling upon evil spirits as she is not able to commit the deed herself.
Lady Macbeth believes that Macbeth is “too full o’th milk of human kindness” she thinks that Macbeth does not have the “guts” to do it.
In act 1 scene 7 Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to kill Duncan. She does this by dwelling and attacking Macbeth’s masculinity. “When you durst do it, then you were a man” She calls him a coward. It is only in this scene that the murder is discussed openly. The way she manipulates him shows her to be truly “Fiend-like.”
In act 2 scene 2 it is Lady Macbeth that takes charge. It is here where we get the hints of weakness as Lady Macbeth says that she would kill Duncan if she were a man. Also she would have killed Duncan if he didn’t look like her father when he was asleep, for she says “Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t.” this all gave the impression of her underlying instability, that she is making excuses for not going through with the murder. Another point that shows Lady Macbeth’s underlying instability is that she is very easily startled and very jumpy. “Hark peace! – it was the owl that shrieked”. “Hark” is used quite often within the scene to show how unnerved she is. Although she dismisses Macbeth’s worries and misgivings she is still cautious and aware that they could be discovered at any time.
It is quite ironic in some ways how after the murder it is Lady Macbeth that tells Macbeth to wash his hands and everything will be alright. “A little water clears us of this deed”. Yet it is Lady Macbeth that has nightmares that involve her washing her hands, Act 5 Scene 1.
Act 3 Scene 1 is where you get the hint that Lady Macbeth has less influence over Macbeth as he decides on his own to arrange Banquo’s murder. Macbeth is not confiding in his wife anymore, she is being distanced from him. It is in Act 3 Scene 2 that I think is the real turning point for both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth as they are like a pair of scales. It was Lady Macbeth who was strong and Macbeth who was weak but now it is Lady Macbeth who is weak and Macbeth who is strong. It is in this scene that Lady Macbeth asks herself if it was all worth it as now it is having a profound effect on her marriage. “Naught had, all’s spent, where our desire is got without content.” Lady Macbeth is shown to be truly fiend-like when she says “What’s done is done?” showing no remorse, being very strong. Lady Macbeth is also shown as being very strong in Act 3 Scene 4 when she steps in and takes control of the banquet when Macbeth take a break from reality with Banquo’s ghost.
Between then and Act 5 Scene 1 Lady Macbeth is not mentioned. We are not entirely sure how much time elapses. However with the discussions of Malcolm and Macbeth we are led to believe that it is more than just a few days. It is here in Act 5 Scene 1 that we see Lady Macbeth sleepwalking as a result of the event haunting her mind. Again it is quite ironic as Lady Macbeth tells the doctor her secrets and she earlier told Macbeth that she would rather kill her children than break a promise and “Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this.”
It is not very surprising to the audience that Lady Macbeth turns to suicide as her mind is just plagued with images of the murder. Even the doctor in Act 5 Scene 1 he says that he cannot cure her “This disease is beyond my practice. Yet I have known those which walk in their sleep who have died holily in their beds.” He then says in Act 5 Scene 3 that she is not physically ill but she is sick within her own mind.
She then dies in Act 5 Scene 5. We do not get to see the suicide itself but just hear a cry.
It is easy to consider Lady Macbeth a strong woman who goes to pieces as she is distanced from her husband. Similarly some would blame her for encouraging Macbeth on his bloody path.
However a close examination of the text reveals signs of her weaker side from the outset and rather than seeing her as “Fiend-like” we perhaps look on her as a woman who forces herself to be strong so that her husband might achieve his ambition. Ultimately the strain and guilt of this “strength” proves too much for her to bear. The signs of her weakness are there throughout the play if we look costly for them.