Macbeth is a Shakespearean tragedy which follows the protagonist Macbeth as he plots to kill the king of Scotland and to become king himself, after hearing a prophecy from three witches. It follows Macbeth’s journey of betrayal, guilt, and murder, until his final downfall. This scene details Macbeth’s first soliloquy, in which he decides not to follow through with their plan of regicide, and the remainder of the scene consists of his wife, Lady Macbeth, arguing with him to change his mind.
Lady Macbeth uses emotive language in contrast to he husband’s logically thought out reasoning, and appeals to his sense of honour in his own masculinity by insulting it. Before Lady Macbeth enters the scene, Macbeth decides against the plan of regicide during his soliloquy. His reasons for deciding against committing the act include reasons spurred by guilt, such as that Duncan is not only a great king, of whom Macbeth is supposedly a loyal subject, but a guest in Macbeth’s house, and Macbeth’s cousin, therefore it would be wrong to kill him.
He also considers the justice of the act, as Duncan is a good man and loved by the people. Not only does Duncan do a good job leading the country, but his people would be outraged, weeping for Duncan’s death and not resting until the murderer was found. This brings Macbeth to his next reason against killing Duncan; fear for himself. Macbeth worries that he will be found out, reasoning that, even if he escapes punishment on earth, he may risk the afterlife, or punishment from the gods. Macbeth also worries about his own safety when he is king, fearing that he may meet the same fate as Duncan.
Also, as he is already looked upon favourably by the lords of Scotland for his valour and courage, he is unwilling to risk his good name. He concludes his soliloquy, having reached his decision, saying “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition”. All of Macbeth’s arguments are clearly thought out and logical. Lady Macbeth manages to sway Macbeth in his decision by using emotive arguments to counter his logic. Her passionate outbursts defeat Macbeth, who seems to be somewhat frightened of his wife, for his solid arguments seem to disintegrate as Lady Macbeth disputes.
Her subtle transitions from outrage and aggression to cajoling him and understating the act create the perfect persuasion, and the strong use of emotive language and personification renders Macbeth incapable of reasoning logically. “Was the hope drunk… and wakes it now, to look so green and pale at what it did so freely? ” Lady Macbeth demands, showcasing her talent for creating images which Macbeth, and the audience along with him, can not help but see substance beneath.
In this statement, Lady Macbeth questions if Macbeth regarded his decision to kill the king as a drunken mistake, while also referring to the hope which she and her husband harboured of becoming rulers. Using this strength of argument, she is able to override her husband’s earlier decision and convince him to kill Duncan. This is a way in which she shows her authority over Macbeth. The contrast of gender roles in Macbeth is highlighted when Lady Macbeth questions her husband’s masculinity. Her scornful accusation that Macbeth is not a man displays the importance of masculine traits to males in this time.
Lady Macbeth tries to diminish Macbeth’s power by undermining his authority as a man. She mocks and insults his lack of courage, challenging him; “when you durst do it, then you were a man”. By this statement, Lady Macbeth is implying that until he kills Duncan, Macbeth forfeits the rights of being a man, as she feels a coward is in no way a man. In contrast to Macbeth’s lack of courage, Lady Macbeth displays some masculine traits during this scene. She is forceful and aggressive, and takes control over the situation.
She shows no sign of mercy or regret for what she is about to take part in, and it is clear that she hold the authority. This would have been threatening to Macbeth, as the dominant role should have been his, as the husband. This could have contributed to Macbeth’s change of heart; him wanting to prove that he was capable. Lady Macbeth showcased many techniques of convincing Macbeth to commit regicide during this scene. Her use of emotive language, personification, imagery, mockery, and insults to Macbeth’s masculinity all contributed in changing his mind, and therefore deciding the outcome of the play.