William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Macbeth tells the story of a Scottish general named Macbeth who, consumed by ambition and convinced by his wife, Lady Macbeth, murders the King of Scotland, Duncan, and takes the throne. Some people say that, throughout the story, Lady Macbeth serves as a foil to Macbeth; that she contrasts with him through her dialogues and actions to highlight some of his particular qualities. But how does this happen?
Act I, Scene V of Macbeth closes with Lady Macbeth deciding to take part in the murder of the King of Scotland so that she and her husband can be part of royalty. She encourages her husband to kill the King by saying “Shall sun that morrow see! Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men may read strange matters” (I,v,59-61). Lady Macbeth stays strong for her husband, who fears people finding out that he will murder the king. She is brave and determined, highlighting her husband’s cowardice and fears.
She also brings out her “manliness” by being brave and cruel, highlighting Macbeth’s coward “femeninity”, as seen in the following quote: “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direct cruelty!” (I,v,38-41). Lady Macbeth thinks cruelty and bravery are characteristics only found in male humans, so she asks the spirits to unsex her and take her femeninity away. She wants to be able to do what Macbeth can’t, even though he’s a male: to kill King Duncan and accomplish the witches profecy.
Lady Macbeth also encourages Macbeth to kill King Duncan and disrupt the natural order of things explained by Theodore Spencer in the book Shakespeare and the Nature of Man: “Nature’s order was shown in the elements, in the stars, in the hierarchy of souls, in the ranks of society” (1961:20). Lady Macbeth wants to disrupt this order in which only one member of the family of the King can be crowned so that Macbeth can be the new King: “And
we’ll not fail. When Duncan...