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?Compare the presentation of Lady Macbeth and Miss Havisham. Explore how Shakespeare and Dickens present them as disturbed women. Disturbed is a definition of someone who has emotional or mental problems; both Lady Macbeth and Miss Havisham are presented as disturbed characters in one way or another. These two leading women both have characteristics that were not stereotypical of woman at the time periods that the play and the novel were set in; making them immediately appear strange to the audience or reader of that time.
Shakespeare and Dickens both present their leading women in very different ways; however some aspects of their characters show similarities. The play Macbeth was set in Elizabethan times, where there was a patriarchal society in which men were superior to women. Women were known by their husbands’ names and were seen more as their husbands’ property than their partners. Elizabethan women were treated badly and disobedience on their behalf was a crime against religion as the society of that time believed that women were made to serve men.
However, it was also believed that women were incapable of having evil thoughts or committing devilish crimes. The character of Lady Macbeth goes entirely against the typical Elizabethan woman as she is portrayed as strong and controlling over her husband Macbeth, and is the one to persuade him to commit an act of regicide. This would be shocking to an Elizabethan audience as regicide was known as the worst possible thing you could do, as they believed that their monarchs were sent from God. Miss Havisham is also the opposite of what women in her society were like; she was a spinster.
This meant she was seen as a failure as in Victorian times, a woman’s proper purpose was to suitably marry; it was what they were born for. In most of Charles Dickens’ novels, the spinsters and old maids who appear are usually mad, desiccated, boring or secluded. Miss Havisham in Great Expectations is an example, a woman who fell in love and was jilted on the day of her wedding. She lived for the rest of life in her wedding dress, with one shoe on, a wedding cake uneaten on the table, and the clock stopped at the time she found out that her husband-to-be had deserted her.
In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is first introduced in Act 1 Scene 5. She is reading a letter from her husband, immediately the audience see her as a determined and power-hungry character. In her soliloquy she reveals that Macbeth ‘shalt be what thou art promised’ her ambition for her husband to be king and indeed perhaps for herself to be queen is evident here. Shakespeare’s use of the imperative ‘shalt’ displays her controlling nature, showing her strength and masculinity which would appear unusual to the audience of that time.
Although at first Lady M/acbeth would seem to be a rather queer character, the audience would not immediately class her as disturbed. Miss Havisham, however, is portrayed as a disturbed character right from when we first meet her in Chapter 8. Dickens first describes Miss Havisham through Pips eyes as he first sets foot in Satis House. The way the house and the room in which Miss Havisham sits is described, ‘no glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it’ immediately lets the reader know that she is extremely disturbed’ the whole house is stopped, including the clocks at the exact time she turned into a spinster.
The idea of showing Miss Havisham first through Pip, allows the reader to see what is wrong, however, not fully understand why this is. Miss Havisham appears to be a much weaker character when she is first introduced as Pip describes her as ‘a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress’. Dickens use of death imagery gives the reader an impression that Miss Havisham’s life is already over and she is just waiting to die. This makes the reader feel somewhat sorry for her at first and wonder why she is living in such a way.
Although it is soon evident that Miss Havisham is not as weak as she first appears when she speaks to Pip for the first time; ‘“Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close. ”’ Dickens also uses imperatives in Miss Havisham’s speech ‘come’ showing that although regarded by all in that era as a failure she still has power to make others do whatever she wants. Both Lady Macbeth and Miss Havisham are both portrayed as evil characters throughout the play and the novel.
Some people may argue that Miss Havisham is less evil as she does not murder anyone, however, she does ruin the lives of others, using Estella to break the hearts of men the way hers was once broken. Lady Macbeth does come across as more wicked than Miss Havisham most of the time however she might not be as evil and sinister as we are lead to believe. We realise this when she says ‘stop up the access and passage to remorse’. This shows the audience that maybe she does have some conscience because she knows she will feel guilty.
However, another way to look at it is that she just wants to stop this from happening so that she can live happily as queen without guilt pulsing through her. This makes the reader think of her as a selfish woman who is used to getting exactly what she wants without any of the bad consequences that come along side it. The use of the modal verb ‘stop’ is strong and commanding and it doesn’t give the person she is talking to an option to say no. The idea of not being able to say no is repeated at the end of Act 1 Scene 5 where she tells Macbeth to ‘Leave all the rest to me’.
Lady Macbeth is saying that no matter what anyone says no one will persuade her to change her mind about the murder of King Duncan. The language shows that she feels like she has the upper hand over Macbeth. Lady Macbeth uses her power to manipulate Macbeth into committing an act of regicide. Miss Havisham also manipulates people into doing things that they do not wish to do. She brings Estella up to get revenge on mankind and at the same time makes it impossible for Estella to love. Miss Havisham uses Pip for Estella to practice on and is delighted when Pip falls in love with her.
‘Well you can break his heart’ she tells Estella when she does not want to play cards with a ‘common labouring boy’. Miss Havisham says this in such a calm way that it seems to the reader that breaking someone’s heart is not a big deal to her, which it isn’t since she just wants revenge on all men. Although both of these women are ‘horribly cruel’ towards the end of the play and the novel they do realise what they have done wrong and feel guilty about it. Although the way they react to the guilt differs hugely.
Miss Havisham becomes more normal with guilt and tries to put her wrongs right. ‘”Oh” she cried despairingly. “What have I done? What have I done? ”’ she becomes a weak, pitiable creature who begs Pip for forgiveness ‘on her knees and is desperate to do something ‘useful and good’ Her regret makes the reader feel sorry for her rather than blame her. Lady Macbeth becomes more and more disturbed with guilt, up until a point where she cannot take it anymore and commits suicide. Her grief must have been extremely bad for her to do this since she would know that she would be going to hell.