In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth there are two main characters, one of which is more believable than the other. Lady Macbeth is not as lifelike or realistic as her husband. In this essay we shall explore her character.
In his book, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, H. S. Wilson describes the role of Lady Macbeth:
Professor Kittredge used to point out to his classes that Lady Macbeth, in urging Macbeth to act, uses the three arguments that every wife, some time or other, uses to every husband: “You promised me you’d do it!” “You’d do it if you loved me!” “If I were a man, I’d do it myself!” But Macbeth’s mind is made up by her assurance that they may do it safely by fixing the guilt upon Duncan’s chamberlains. (72)
L.C. Knights in the essay “Macbeth” describes the unnaturalness of Lady Macbeth’s words and actions:
Thus the sense of the unnaturalness of evil is evoked not only be repeated explicit references (“nature’s mischief,” “nature seems dead,” ” ‘Tis unnatural, even like the deed that’s done,” and so on) but by the expression of unnatural sentiments and an unnatural violence of tone in such things as Lady Macbeth’s invocation of the “spirits” who will “unsex” her, and her affirmation that she would murder the babe at her breast if she had sworn to do it. (95)
Samuel Johnson in The Plays of Shakespeare underscores how ambition by the protagonists leads to detestation on the part of the readers:
The danger of ambition is well described; and I know not whether it may not be said in defence of some parts which now seem improbable, that, in Shakespeare’s time, it was necessary to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions.
The passions are directed to their true end. Lady Macbeth is merely detested; and though the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall. (133)
In “Memoranda: Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth,” Sarah Siddons comments on the Lady’s cold manner:
[Macbeth] announces the King’s approach; and she, insensible it should seem to all the perils which he has encountered in battle, and to all the happiness of his safe return to her, — for not one kind word of greeting or congratulations does she offer, — is so entirely swallowed up by the horrible design, which has probably been suggested to her by his letters, as to have forgotten both the one and the other.
Identity Formation in Mansfield’s The Garden Party
“The budding rose above the rose full blown,” writes William Henry Wordsworth, elevating the process of emerging, changing and evolving over those already developed, established and matured. While Wordsworth’s remark regards a rose, the statement also accurately describes Katherine Mansfield’s protagonist in The Garden Party. The narrative focuses on a wealthy family from New Zealand, jaded by elite lifestyle and prominent social standing. The youngest daughter, Laura, “the budding rose” of the story, seeks to break the constraints of upper class society, causing her to be both more mature and compassionate than other members of her well to do family.
Laura’s internal struggle, the main conflict of Mansfield’s story, is one of identity, and she oscillates between imitating environmental influences and reacting to them in a manner that is unique to her individual personality. Throughout the course of the story, the pendulum of her conscience swings to converse sides, causing her actions to be inconsistent and without allegiance to either her family’s upperclass exclusive ways or to her inherent qualities of equality and empathy. This varying behavior causes critics to dispute over Laura’s “true” personality, motives and objectives. While some critics believe that her sympathetic efforts are an attempt at rebelling from the expectations of her class, others believe that she is an empathetic individual without a supportive family. Another group of critics believe that the story presents only the initiation of Laura’s kindness, suggesting that she will continue to flourish into a compassionate person on the outskirts of upper class society; others refute this view, stating that The Garden Party portrays the extent of Laura’s d…
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Daly, Saralyn R. “Katherine Mansfield” New York: Twayne Publishers; 1914.
Kleine,Don W. “’The Garden Party’: A Portrait of the Artist,”Criticism, Vol. V No. 4 Fall, 1963, pp.360-371.
Kobbler, J.F. “Katherine Mansfield. A Study of the Short Fiction”. Twayne Publishers. Boston: 1991
Mansfield, Katherine. “The Garden Party. Norton Anthology Ed. M.H. Abrams W.W Norton