Role reversals exhibited by Macbeth and his lady
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are dynamic characters and Shakespeare reveals the distinct and different thought processes of these two characters through soliloquies and dialogues. As the play progresses, their mindscapes alter until a complete reversal of roles occurs between the protagonist and his wife.
In the first act, a bleeding captain describes the protagonist as “brave Macbeth”, who is “valour’s minion” and a lion, who vanquishes the Irish rebels, as well as the Norwegian invaders to protect his king. Thus he wins the title “Thane of Cawdor”.This title probably lays the seed of greed that corrupts Macbeth. He is confused initially when treacherous thoughts appear in his head, upon hearing the three witches’ prophesy; for their words kindle the dormant ambition in his subconscious mind; although outwardly, he is still the loyal subject of the king. His murderous thoughts make his hair stand on end in horror, but also make his heart pound in excitement.. Soon his wish to kill becomes stronger. At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth wants to be the catalyst in his ascension to power, because she thinks he is ‘full of the milk of human kindness’ and lacks the ‘mean streak’ to seize the opportunity. In order for him to change, she wills herself to be unnatural, unwomanly; a person ‘of direst cruelty’ whose mother’s milk is poison. Thus she exhibits bravado, eggs Macbeth on and also plans the murder for him.
After he murders the king, Macbeth gets obsessed with the thought, that Banquo’s sons would rule. Tor restore peace to his tortured mind, he goes on a murder spree. Further, the visions concocted by the witches turn his brain the wrong way. They instigate him to be ‘bloody, bold and resolute’, and scorn all men. After the murder, Lady Macbeth becomes stricken with a guilt over a crime she cannot forget. She is deeply disappointed in Macbeth for having hallucinations during the party. Her mind is unable to bear the burden of guilt and she reveals all her secrets to her maid unintenionally, by walking and talking in her sleep, and finally dies pathetically of incurable mental illness. In contrast, the vacillating Macbeth meets his end with the firm resolve to fight unto death.