Full Analysis of Lady Macbeth – British Library




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“Throughout most of literary history, Lady Macbeth – the scheming spouse who plots the villainy at the centre of Shakespeare’s devastating ‘Scottish play’ – has been seen as a figure of ‘almost peerless malevolence’. Monstrous and murderous, she was based on a woman described in Holinshed’s Chronicles as ‘burning in unquenchable desire to beare the name of a queene’. Yet actors who played this part have often debated her character. Writing in the early 19th century, the great Sarah Siddons declared that this infamous heroine was ‘a woman in whose bosom the passion of ambition has almost obliterated all the characteristics of human nature’, and recalled that she first learned the part ‘in a paroxysm of terror’, so fearful that the rustling of her own silk dress seemed ‘like the movement of a spectre pursuing me’. But later in the century the charismatic actor Ellen Terry thought it ‘strange’ that Lady Macbeth should be seen ‘as a sort of monster’, claiming that ‘I conceive [her] as a small, slight woman of acute nervous sensibility’, who was perhaps ‘not good, but not much worse than many women you know – me for instance’. The critic Anna Jameson similarly declared that ‘the woman herself remains a woman to the last’.”


Literary analysis of Lady Macbeth with respect to gender roles, as well as her motivations and how they lead her on a murderous quest to be queen.


  • Sandra Gilbert


  • ‘Unsex Me Here’: Lady Macbeth’s ‘Hell Broth’


  • British Library


  • No date.


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