AQA · For Pupils · literature · Macbeth · Shakespeare · Teaching Ideas

Y11 Macbeth – How does Shakespeare present Lady Macbeth as a dominant force in act 1 scene 7?

First of all here’s the task I set you:

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You can’t cover anything so try and decide what are the main points you want to convey in your response. We made some fantastic points in class about how Lady Macbeth takes on the archetypal female role of temptress in this scene which links her to a long line of mythical temptresses: Biblical – recall Eve in the Garden of Eden or Salome who requested the head of John the Baptist; in Greek mythology, the Sirens’ beautiful song tempted sailors to shipwreck. The temptress is a typical figure in narratives (of course, the witches also perform this function) and film is also full of them. In film noir, the femme fatale used all her powers of seduction to get men to do her bidding (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Last Seduction).

However, Lady Macbeth also reveals her ‘monstrosity’ – again the monstrous female is a mythic archetype. Think of Medusa for example. And then there are the film equivalents – the mother in Alien; Carrie; and of course witches throughout history. Think also of the Jessica Lange characters (and Lady Gaga’s) in American Horror Story! (If you get chance, read Angela Carter who turns these myths right on their heads – A Bloody Chamber is a great place to start). Remember – these are stereotypes, arising from myths and legends but they are also used to maintain gender stereotypes and we need to question these ideas don’t we?

And. We mentioned whether Lady Macbeth would actually kill her children. One way to look at this is to see it as hyperbole – again using pathos to convince Macbeth to kill Duncan. She is a woman in a man’s world and thus by removing her maternal instincts (as she does in act 1 scene 5 and the ‘unsex me here’ bit) she can obtain the strength to commit murder. The fact that later on in the play she goes insane might suggests that she is not pure evil and that conscience has finally overcome her (if she were pure evil wooiuld she have a conscience?)

Don’t forget that you need to do some AO2 – close analysis of language and methods; zoom in on some key words and phrases and add extra layers of exploration.

Here’s some help if you need it.

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And here’s a couple of excellent examples from students who responded with come real sophistication:

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In the one above, I’ve just highlighted a couple of areas where I felt the student had maybe generalised/speculated too far or needed a little more evidence (and asked them to correct). However, with this group I am encouraging speculation – it adds to their layers of interpretation – but it also needs to be grounded in the text of course.

NB – it looks like I’m a ‘just tick’ marker: I’m not – I annotate in the margins and continually ask questions. Believe me!

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