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The Character of Lady Macbeth

The Character of Lady Macbeth

The character of Lady Macbeth is a complex one, there is much that can be said regarding the juxtaposition of ideas concerning her behavior. Within this essay I shall attempt to elaborate on her forceful, selfish and contradictory character.

Samuel Johnson within ‘The Plays of Shakespeare’ highlights how ambition of a protagonist leads to detestation on the part of the readers: Or in other words an ambitious nature can be used as a tool by the playwright to produce a sense of loathing and dislike amongst the audience.

The dangers presented by ambition are well described; In Shakespeare’s time, it was necessary to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions. These 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. (56)

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.

Essay on the Character of Caleb Trask in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden

The Character of Caleb Trask in East of Eden

Cal Trask is one of the most complex characters in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Through Cal’s childhood experiences, his personal motives, and his internal conflict, Steinbeck shows the development of Cal’s character.

First of all, the most important childhood experience which affects Cal’s life is Adam’s 12 year abandonment of his sons. Since Cathy ran away, the twins have no mother figure to give them tenderness as they grow up. This absence of open affection leaves Cal unable to express his needs for love and attention. Only Lee, the Chinese servant, is there to guide Cal and Aron. Since Cal is the more dominant of the two brothers, he learns to manipulate Aron and others around him. He takes this role because, while “no one liked Cal very much… Aron drew love from every side”(Steinbeck 551). Lee observes that “he’s [Cal] fighting for his life and his brother doesn’t have to fight [for his father’s love and affection]”(386).

Cal’s well-intentioned motives are mostly aimed at winning his father’s love. He sacrifices his pride and asks Will Hamilton to help him raise money to replace the money Adam lost in the lettuce adventure. When Adam rejects the money, he in effect rejects Cal, which is “brutal, and unfeeling, and this after he had begun a cordial relationship with his son”(Fontenrose 375). Cal is so distraught that he lashes out at Aron, his father’s favorite son, by telling him the truth about their mother. This act is a contrast to a similar crossroad earlier in the novel when Cal doesn’t tell Aron the truth about his mother because “he didn’t think Aron could handle it at all” (586). Cal also withholds the information in an effort to be “good,” and because Cal knows that the revelation of his knowledge of this secret would bring pain to Adam, the man he loves the most.

Finally, Cal is faced with his internal struggle of good versus evil. This struggle is partly caused by his traumatic child experiences. He struggles with the question of whether his evil actions are the result of his own evilness or his mother’s wickedness. He tries to combat this wickedness that he sees within himself by trying to acquire affection, especially his father’s, through good deeds and being more pleasant towards other. However, he strikes out at others whenever he feels rejected by Adam, and he fights the urge to strike out at Aron, who Cal believes is Adam’s favorite son, by using his most devastating weapon—the truth about their mother.

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