Shortly after receiving new from Macbeth of the predictions, one of which states that he will become King; Lady Macbeth begins to prepare herself to commit any act in order to make this prediction a reality. During Lady Macbeth’s speech she focuses much of her will power on calling up evil spirits to take away all of her female characteristics and traits in order to be able to commit the ruthless murder of Duncan. At this point, from the very beginning of the play, we see how the idea of power is corrupting Lady Macbeth and how evil a person she is. Shakespeare is successful in portraying on image of Lady Macbeth, through his language techniques (metaphors, alliterations, symbolism, etc), to show she is ruthless, evil and able to kill without remorse. Yet, in the end, we see her conscience come back to haunt her as her evil doing bring about her death, and that of Macbeth.
When Lady Macbeth receives the fatal letter from Macbeth she immediately begins to think of the future, not taking into account the incredible consequences involved in carrying out her desires. Her speech in Act 1, Scene 5 illustrates those desires effectively. At the opening of her speech she states that, “The raven himself is hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements.” The significance of this line is that she plans to kill Duncan and that the raven, symbolizing evil, announces Duncan’s upcoming date with death. This desire for Duncan to die is later made clear when she says, “unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty.” Lady Macbeth is pleading for her to be saturated with total evil in order to leave behind her sense of guilt. However, all of these qualities need to be lost. Her ambition and her ruthlessness need to be contained or extinguished. These qualities will only contribute to hurting her and her ambitions as well.
Shakespeare uses certain language techniques to help transmit many images. The speech has a lot to do with Lady Macbeth’s transition from good to evil and for that reason Shakespeare uses light and dark imagery to help get this image across. A perfect example is when Lady Macbeth says “Come, thick night, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, that my keen knife see not the wound it makes”. The significance of this quote is that she wishes to make the transition from good to evil. The thick night is to consume her in order for her not to see the wound her knife makes, because at the moment she is worried she will feel remorse after seeing the knife in Duncan’s chest.
Shakespeare’s word usage and diction also help the speech feel more intense. Phrases such as ‘compunctious visitings of nature’ help show us how important it is to Lady Macbeth to be stripped of all of her womanly qualities. Symbolism and personification are also used. A perfect example of the use of personifications is in the beginning of the speech which starts off with, “The raven himself is hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements.” Shakespeare has given the raven the human quality of announcing information which shows the symbolic importance of the raven. The raven symbolizes the evil that is beginning to surge and how this evil will soon act by taking Duncan’s life. Another use of symbolization is when Lady Macbeth says “unsex me here”. This means that she wants to be rid of all her feminine aspects. All of the above help us get a deeper understanding of the speech.
Although these ‘callings’ on evil spirits aid her in the beginning of the play, later on begin to see the consequences these evil deeds are having on her conscience. In Act 5 we see how, subconsciously, Lady Macbeth feels guilty for having committed such terrible crimes. She begins to dream of ‘washing her hands’ of blood, hoping to remove the ‘stains’ of guilt. The weight of the evil deeds catch up to her and eventually brings about her own death. Although it would appear from the beginning of the play that she is truly evil we realize that ultimately she is not successful because although she gets what she wants, she cannot deal with her past.
In conclusion, the speech was effective and dramatic enough to show us what role Lady Macbeth would take in the play. Her presence was terrifying because it showed how many people may be open to evil. The audience was impacted by her irrational ambition and willingness to commit evil. However, in the end, she fails, having underestimated her own will power. By this Shakespeare is attempting to show how even the most evil people in the world may have a sense of guilt and, as corny as it may sound, crime never pays which is why Lady Macbeth eventually dies.