Lady Macbeth is sometimes been called “The Fourth Witch” of the drama. To Goethe, she is ‘The super Witch’. In fact, Lady Macbeth’s commanding role in murdering Duncan, her cruel and Witch like approach to the horrid deed is simply amazing. The way in which she taunts and jeers Macbeth to perpetrate the murder of Duncan leads one to weigh her with the witches. But this is not all about her. We must study closely her mind and action from the beginning to the end until her death to justify whether she is the fourth witch or a woman with all the frailties of her sex.
It is, of course, force undeniable that it is Lady Macbeth who impels her husband to perpetrate the horrid deed with the valour of her tongue and imperious will. When Macbeth shudders back she urges him on. Had she not exercised her decisive influence and commanding note on him it would have been impossible for Macbeth to execute his purpose. She taunts, she persuades, she coaxes and she assures Macbeth to enable him to overcome the fear. To excite his manliness she has invoked his spirit rebuked his vain courage with the trade of a soldier. To arouse his manliness she has gone to assent that she herself would have not hesitated to kill the babe of her bosom had she been promised to do so. So, it becomes amply clear that but for her guiding Macbeth would have never been equal to the task. In the murder scene, she behaves in the coolest and calculating manner. She outlines the plan of the murder. When Macbeth brings the daggers after murdering the king and refuses to put them back there, she reproaches him for being infirm of purpose,” and does it for him. Afterward, when Macbeth suffering intense prick of conscience, becomes the victim of his “Sorriest fancies,” she tries her best to screw his courage. Then, her role in the banquet scene is simply awe-inspiring; she keeps herself cool, retains the natural red of her cheeks and rises to the occasion to save
Macbeth from making a complete disclosure of his crime.
So judged superficially she may appear to be a fiend-like queen. But she is not essentially so. Had she been stony-hearted and merciless wholly she would have not collapsed so badly in the sleep-walking scene. A perfect analysis shows that she is the kind of woman who has forcibly sought to suppress her feminine nature to be a party to a foul and treacherous murder to see her husband’s ambition fulfilled. All that she has done is only to give her husband sovereignty. But going against her nature and putting up artificial strength she can not keep up her appearance for a long time. The burden of her guilt leads inevitably to her complete break down in the sleep-walking scene. She is wholly off her balance. Her imagination breaks loose and runs wild resulting in a series of incoherent flashbacks. Unnatural crimes give birth to unending sufferings and minds that are stung with sorrows leak out their secrets to the pillows during sleep. Exactly the same thing happens in the case of Lady Macbeth.
In fact, she is no better than a woman with all the feminine frailties has been made clear throughout the drama. Quite in the earlier the drama, there are enough evidence of her essential womanliness. She has invoked the aid of the murdering ministers by saying :
“Come, to my woman’s breast
And take my milk for gall.”
But this is also a very womanly saying-a woman with the full knowledge of her own milk of human kindness.
Moreover, the universal mother is not absent in her is evident when she says :
“I have given suck and know
How tender tis to love the babe that milks me”.
Again, the universal daughter in her becomes evident when she fails to murder Duncan because the king resembles her father. She has to take wine to overcome her fear. But neither wine nor artificial strength leads her go against her nature for a long time. The voice of conscience forcibly strangled, reasserts itself and Lady Macbeth begins to sink. This is noticed for the first time when in the scene of the discovery of the murder she faints. Here we mark the beginning of her and when next we see her as Scotland the glory of her dream has faded. She enters disillusioned and weary with life.
Henceforth, she has no initiative. The erstwhile partner and co-associate in the crime is being relegated to the
So even though Lady Macbeth often talks and behaves like a fiend she is certainly not a Goneril or a Regan who has even known what is dissembling; it sometimes threatens to overshadow her inner self.