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Lady Macbeth's onset of mental illness, anxiety and lack of empathy

ab0m1nat10n 1 / 1  
Dec 7, 2015   #1
Hi, here is my essay, can you please tell me if this is any good (this is for IGCSE English) Thank you.
With reference to at least 2 scenes, compare and contrast the way(s) in which the character of Lady Macbeth is presented through their use of language

Christy Chan

Shakespeare inserts Lady Macbeth into an extreme plot that affects her throughout the play, as the motifs of murder and death change her view of herself, which in turn affect her emotions and therefore spiral down into mental illness. This is illustrated in three stages, in the beginning in which her determination forces her to think logically, and due to this, making her more conscious of her actions and how they affect those around her.

At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a resolute and determined character, who wants to kill Duncan. On the one hand, she is portrayed as an agitated person, illustrating how nervous about the outcome she is, demonstrating her willpower to get the murder over and done with. Her nervousness makes her think she is hearing voices, as demonstrated in Act 2 Scene 2, 'Did you not speak?' This misunderstanding of what is going on around her grasps onto the fact that she is not in control, and without this control she is unnerved. She is constantly thinking about the murder with a state of beneficial anxiety, keeping her on edge, aware of her surroundings. On the other hand, she is portrayed as logical and pragmatic, illustrating her belief that emotion will get in the way of the actions being done. 'These deeds must not be thought after these ways; so, it will make us mad.' Her use of the word 'deeds' has less negative connotations than murder, so it describes the act euphemistically, toning down Macbeth's emotional distress. In addition, she uses the word 'mad' as an emotive word, illustrating that they cannot risk being deranged or insane, gaining control of Macbeth's thoughts. Another example of her coldness is her imperative sentence of 'give me the daggers,' illustrating that she is trying to take things into her own hands, even if the situation is not going to plan. She lacks the time or effort to emotionally console Macbeth, as she wants to gain a sense of control, which is very important to her. Her determination to grasp onto the situation and maintain it demonstrates that she has no emotional reaction to the situation, but just needs to keep going to reduce her agitation.

Alongside her determination and pragmatism, Lady Macbeth is cold and lacks empathy. This is illustrated in Act 2 Scene 2, when she tells Macbeth to 'Consider it not so deeply,' which she uses bluntly to try and influence him to stay without emotion so it does not cloud his judgement. She uses the word 'consider,' which tells him to let the thought prolong in his mind, letting it get ahold of him, illustrating her lack of emotional support. Another example is how she tells Macbeth that his thoughts are 'infirm of purpose!' meaning his thoughts are useless and he is overthinking the situation. By dismissing his thoughts, she displays that she lacks the empathy to understand him even if Macbeth says that he will 'go no more.' This apathy is also seen through her cowardice in the scene. She makes excuses to not do the action herself, telling Macbeth, 'Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done't,' illustrating that she does not care that he also has guilt and fear of the situation. Another example of this sense of strong dignity and cowardice, is when she states, 'my hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white.' Her use of the word 'shame' suggests that she is hiding from something, yet does not realize that Macbeth also has shame. In addition her use of the word 'of your color,' portrays that she is trying to empathize with him, as the hands are the same color, but fails when she says 'so white,' suggesting that she is looking down on him. This lack of emotion ensures that she does not feel what Macbeth feels, which is a withdrawal from the situation at hand, lacking the empathy to fully immerse herself.

Due to her lack of catharsis, beneficial anxiety and apathy, she builds up this whirlwind of emotion within her, and cracks. She becomes emotional, expressive, and intensely dramatic. This is illustrated by her obsessive hand washing/rubbing, a symptom of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which illustrates that she has obsessive, intrusive thoughts of the blood, 'a spot,' that never go away, which leads to her compulsions of consistently washing and rubbing her hands to get rid of the blood. In compliance with this, her fragmentation of thoughts by starting in the middle of the sentence, 'yet here's a spot,' displays her intrusive thoughts, meaning that her mind is full of thoughts, and that there is too much chaos in her mind. Due to this easy distraction, her train of thought is broken up, so when she speaks, only fragments of the layers of thoughts come out. This vocalization of the spot of blood demonstrates that this thought, despite being in the chaos of the mind, is a prominent, intrusive one and not one of the many that just come and go. This maelstrom of the mind is accompanied by the feeling of losing control, demonstrated in her assertive statement, 'Out, damned spot!'. She is trying to regain control of what she views as reality, again hinting at the idea of control and sense of control. Her feeling of losing control is prevalent in her mind, and is very ubiquitous in mental illness. In addition to the chaos of her mind and fragmented thoughts, her constant question-asking 'Will these hands ne'er be clean?' illustrates her overthinking, asking herself questions and attacking everything her mind can latch onto. This overthinking is a prevalent cause of depression, generating problems that do not exist. Due to this loss of control of thoughts, she uses self reassurance and self encouragement to get herself to do things that she does not feel motivated to do. 'Wash your hands, put on your night-gown, look not so pale,' demonstrates that she is telling herself what to do, using short, blunt, however gentle, imperatives to reassure herself, to try and continue to live life as a sane person who was happy with their life would. Another example of this is 'to bed, to bed; come, come, come, come, to bed, to bed, to bed,' which is her repetition of just two actions, repeating to herself to go to bed, to remind her brain of what she has to do. This consonance brings an edge to her words, to try and keep herself focused so she can go to bed and do whatever she intends to do, otherwise she will be distracted by her emotions and will be unable to function normally. It is in this scene that she starts fully developing and showing signs of mental illness. Despite this, she is illustrated as a sleepwalking human for the audience to think that she is deranged to externalize what was going on in her mind, as externalization of the mind is difficult even in real life.

In conclusion, Lady Macbeth is a complex character as she can be seen as dominant in the beginning of the play, telling Macbeth what to do, yet further on in the play she is illustrated as submissive to Macbeth, doing what he says. In the play, there are many juxtapositions of her character, shown as someone with a huge lack of empathy to someone who knows every little thought that goes on in someone's mind. In situations, she is pragmatic, but internally she is expressive, having many feelings and holding them in even if she looks calm, cool and collected on the surface. However, she came of this either due to nature or to nurture, as she could have been born like that, with a tendency to develop mental illness overtime, or she could have been born a strong character, but due to the environmental factors of the actions she did, she could have repressed her thoughts and held things in, losing the sense of control in her life, lacking the empathy to understand other people's emotion which would have prepared her for her own battle to face. She lacked the catharsis to let these emotions out, so it all built up and spiralled downwards into mental illness.
justivy03 - / 2,366 607  
Dec 7, 2015   #2
Christy, after reading your essay, I can only comment on the manner of writing your essay,
I'm not in the position to regard if it is good enough for the IGCSE English as I'm no expert.

Now, your writing skill as shown on this book report is rather strong, your sentence construction is true to the
idea and how you understood the novel that you just read.

Overall, I can say that this book report summarized the book properly and how you let your readers engaged to your
essay is one thing that is quiet hard to do and you pulled it off, so GOOD JOB!!!

I hope my insights helped.

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