what do you think drives lady macbeth's cruelty and do you sympathise with her at all?
This post and this post might be of interest. But I think ‘cruelty’ is the wrong word. Cruelty implies violence for the sake of violence and enjoyment of violence. (See here.) Lady M doesn’t revel in the violence. She doesn’t delight in it the way some of the characters in, say, Titus Andronicus do, or even Margaret in Henry VI does after the murder of Rutland/during the murder of York. For Lady M violence is always a means to an end. “Infirm of purpose” is what she calls her husband when he starts to get faint-hearted. He’s too full of the milk of human kindness “to catch the nearest way.” For her, it’s all about the outcome. The ends justify the means. Like I said in one of those posts, I think her driving force is ambition. She wants more than what she has.
Interestingly, she never expresses any personal desire to be queen. She does, however, use the singular possessive pronoun ‘my’ when she says “The raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements.” She claims the crime as her own, and even though the idea of murder occurs to her and her husband independently, she is the criminal mastermind. She says, “you shall put / This night’s great business into my dispatch; / Which shall to all our nights and days to come / Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.” And at the end of the scene: “Leave all the rest to me.”This regicide is her baby–and I use that word very deliberately. There are a million possible explanations for why Lady Macbeth is so desperate to seize this power for her husband. My guess is it has something to do with that baby she mentions in 1.7 which doesn’t appear in the play. A woman’s function at this point in history was basically to be a baby-making machine and ensure the survival of her husband’s line. She hasn’t been able to do that (for whatever reason) and her husband, at least, is already middle-aged, so that procreation window is rapidly closing, if it’s not closed already. By early modern standards, that’s a huge dynastic failure. My guess is that her power-grabbing is about agency and compensation. Maybe she can’t continue Macbeth’s line, but she can make him king. And she does.
But here’s the other part of it which I think is really important and often gets overlooked, and it goes back to the fact that Lady M never expresses a personal desire to be queen. She wants her husband to be king, and she thinks he is fully deserving of that office. “Thou wouldst be great;” she says, “Art not without ambition, but without / The illness should attend it.” AND THIS IS SO KEY. Because Lady M is nothing if not full of ambition. What she’s saying here is “You don’t have enough darkness in your soul to do this, so I’m going to do it for you.” Now. Is that somewhat fucked up? Absolutely. However, that is an enormous sacrifice to make. I’m not going to get into this in depth, but there’s a lot of natural law theory floating around in this play. What’s important to know is this: In the protestant ethos of this play, if you commit regicide, you are 100% going to be damned for eternity. There’s no doubt about that. So, in an insane backwards way, this is actually an incredibly loving, selfless thing to do on Lady M’s part. She is willing to sacrifice her own salvation to make her husband king. Let that sink in. That is so much more hardcore than just saying, “I’d take a bullet for you, babe.” She is willing to burn for all time to put him on the throne, and not only is she willing, but it’s her idea, not just something she does with her back against the wall. That is a crazy kind of love. And that’s one of my favorite things about this play. This is not a unanimous opinion by any means, but I firmly believe that even though the Macbeths are terrible tyrannical people, they are desperately, devotedly in love with one another. Their language is incredibly intimate. In his first letter Macbeth addresses his wife as “My dearest partner of greatness,” and throughout the play they are constantly struggling to help and heal one another. Theirs is a relationship built on love and equality, whatever else they do (and however their relationship is also sometimes toxic and fractures through the play). Look at Macbeth’s conversation with the doctor in 5.3 when his wife’s health begins to fail: “
If thou couldst, doctor, cast / The water of my land, find her disease, / And purge it to a sound and pristine health, / I would applaud thee to the very echo, / That should applaud again.” That. Is. Love.
So. Why does Lady Macbeth do the terrible things she does? There’s no certain answer. Ambition has a lot to do with it. But I think that ambition is rooted in guilt about what she hasn’t been able to provide her husband with, and a passionate yearning to make up for that, somehow. Leo’s character says in Inception that positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time, and I think that’s true here. Lady M doesn’t orchestrate Duncan’s murder because she’s inherently cruel. She does it for love.
She weighed next to nothing in his arms. So fragile yet strong at the same time. They were breathing each other so deeply… The heat of the fire in their room had nothing on them. It was about comfort, it was about healing and it turned into so much more so fast. They were the extension of the fire at that moment.
“Let’s go bed.”
Jamie slowly walked the distance between where they stood and the bed, like he was walking on clouds. His hands running from her backside to her thighs and just holding her up as he did, had left a trail of tingling sensation that Claire was still reeling from. She needed his big hands on her again, lighting up her every nerve. There was a time not long ago that she wasn’t sure she’d ever feel it, or wanted to feel it, or that she could. But only those hands, made for her, given to him for her, like he had once said, could heal her.
She was running her smooth delicate fingers on his nape and upper back, drawing patterns and words they could not utter, since breathing was turning into a hardship at this point. Claire needed out of her stays, she felt restrained. All she wanted was his weight on her, his burning hot skin against her. She wanted to feel his muscles and scars, to kiss them, to lick his perfect worked stomach. Tonight she was hungry for him in a way that only love filled with lust could explain. And he is mine.
How is this woman mine? Jamie asked himself that question many times and caging Claire with his toned arms atop the bed just reminded him yet again of the wonder of her love for him. That flushed beauty, her mouth semi-open for his kisses, her teasing eyes… He ran his nose along her neck and caught her lips. She tugged on his hair for dear life and her tongue came out to dance with his, to claim him. Like any person else could compare… If he could, he would be claimed like this every single day of his life.
And the flames went higher…
Jamie held himself up on his elbows, close to the precipice of losing balance altogether, as Claire started running her foot up his calf, lifting the kilt ever so slightly. Biting him gently on the lower lip, she released the auburn curls and sat on the mattress. Like on their wedding night, he helped her untie the restraining stays, and exactly like on their wedding night their gazes didn’t leave one another. Only difference was, the desire was stronger, the air was heavier.
After removing the stays, Claire unbuckled the kilt’s belt and maddeningly teasing, slowly removed the plaid in all his glorious folds aside. He was intensely ready himself. It overwhelmed all her senses like always. If it weren’t Jamie, this lack of control would have left Claire nervous, but it could never happen with Jamie… “Jamie.” She breathed.
“I’m here, Sorcha.”
He lifted her shift over her head, the sudden gush of cool air caused by the movement of it making her nipples stiffen. That and the dark blue gaze that didn’t fail to shake her to her core. She was still in her stockings, one loose and one still fastened with a flimsy pink tie. She made a move to take them off but he didn’t let her, holding her hands, he placed them around his neck again, while he ran his hands up her glorious round arse and held her tight around the waist, closer to him. Not one inch of room left to breathe anything else but the sweet scent of each other, enhanced by the flames that only went higher.
He started kissing and sucking on her neck, tasting her herbal sweetness, moving one hand to comb her curls away. The only sound in Jamie’s ears were Claire’s exquisite soft moans. Those sounds that made him go mad, also made him relinquish all his senses to her incredibly smooth skin. Moving to her lips again, the intense and slow kiss held a promise of contained words. Words that were not enough to describe the chemistry that happened between them in these moments. He wanted to watch her lose herself.
Feeling Jamie peeling his beautiful mouth away from her, Claire whimpered. He replied by putting his forehead against hers and swayed for a bit holding her in place. One hand tucked her hair behind her ear and a cheeky smirk came upon his face as he dragged his hands over her arms and laid down. She knew what he wanted. And she wanted to give it to him.
That bed and its magic blue quilt was their sanctuary, a place that held many whispers and sweet nothings, said in the dark of the night and in the fresh light of the dawn.
Jamie lay down and placed a hand on his wife, his goddess, guiding her to climb on top of him. The sensations was overwhelmingly satisfying, it was a lightning coursing through them, echoes of thunder reverberating through their limbs. Smiling at her, he put both hands on her shoulders as she started to rock. Slowly, he let his arms run along hers and up again. Their breathing was erratic.
She was supporting herself on him, the marble of his torso feeling like an anchor in a sea of blue quilt. “You feel so good, Jamie.”
“Mo nighean donn”, he said in a whisper like sob. “Don’t stop, Claire…” Moaning, their hearts and bodies rode each other. Jamie placed his hand in the center of Claire’s chest, feeling the frantic rhythm of her heart, slowly reaching for her ivory breasts, kneading and teasing her.
He loved watching her - her head dropping backwards as she started to lose herself in the moment - trying to remain “bodily sober” enough to see her face change a thousand beautifully different ways with their lovemaking, but he too was about to lose it as well.
Claire leaned forward gifting her breasts to him and Jamie thought heaven was upon him. Taking one nipple in his mouth, he sucked and softly bit and felt Claire shiver under her hands. She held his head with some force and if Jamie were to die for lack of air, he would have died one happy man.
“You’re so beautiful, Claire. Please don’t stop mo nighean donn, more.”
“Oh Jamie, my love.”
Claire was starting to lose herself entirely, holding onto Jamie’s neck and shoulders wanting to kiss him, but not wanting him to take his mouth from where it was. Jamie groaned and sat up completely. She kissed him urging for his tongue to meet hers, trying to get into him and he was getting into her. So deep, so passionate, so so so much, but never enough.
Claire caressed his face, marveling at his furrowing brow, smoothing it, kissing it. They were still riding thunder as Jamie brought one hand down to touch the place, hot enough as to make metal melt, as to turn coal into diamond. Then, he buried his face in her neck, she burying her nails in his back, and ecstasy ensued. Together, they became one. Jamie kept his face on her neck, Claire was overdone with one long sob leaving her lips as the aftershocks came through. She couldn’t let go, she couldn’t breathe and neither could he.
After the lingering effects washed over them, Jamie held his well rested wife against him. She propped herself on her elbow, kissed and caressed his pecs and whispered, smiling, “Tha gaol agam ort, mo Seaumais”.