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Analyse and Compare How Lady Macbeth and Curley's Wife Are Presented Shakespeare’s ' Macbeth' and Steinbeck’s ‘of Mice and Men’

In: English and Literature

Submitted By ivandro
Words 2335
Pages 10
Celton Brito-Lobato
Analyse and compare how Lady Macbeth and Curley's wife are presented Shakespeare’s ' Macbeth' and Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’

In the Shakespearean play of ‘Macbeth’ we are introduced to the character of Lady Macbeth. Similarly in John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice of Men we also presented with an equally diverse character of Curley's wife. ‘Macbeth’ was written during the early 17th century, and was a play 'fit for a king'. It outlines a couple's ambition to become rulers of Scotland and sees them fulfil this ambition and in doing so, killing the king in the process. Despite being written during patriarchal Jacobean society, Lady Macbeth is a female protagonist. Throughout the play, through Lady Macbeth's actions we are forced to believe that she is evil. In contrast, in the novel John Steinbeck tells a story of dreams, hopes and loneliness. We are introduced to a majorly significant and complex character, named Curley’s wife. Steinbeck shows us that Curley’s wife is flirtatious, mischievous (despite the patriarchal society of the 1930’s) but most of all she is an isolated character. Her hasty marriage to Curley proves to be failed attempt to escape her own spiral of disappointment of not fulfilling her ambition of becoming an actress. This ironically is a main theme in both texts. This essay will analyse and compare the presentation of Lady Macbeth and Curley's wife through structure, themes, what is said about them, their actions and what they themselves say.

Established within both texts is a portrayal of each woman’s relationship and the ambition that accompanies is. Act 1 Scene 5 illustrates the affection discernibly apparent in their relationship. ‘My dearest partner of greatness’ serves as an opportunity for us the audience to witness the vast magnitude of fondness Macbeth has towards Lady Macbeth. ‘My dearest’ the way in which he decides to address his wife highlights the fact that he places her profoundly on a pedestal of importance and underlined is the fact that they are an attached couple who evidently have boundless amounts of love for each other. Through the use of the superlative ‘dearest’ the immense amount of adoration in which he has for her is indubitable as he is willingly prepared to liken her to greatness. ‘Bear welcome in your eye your hand, your tongue’ is an additional situation where we recognise Lady Macbeth’s knowledge of her husband’s kind nature. Here we see her concocting a blueprint in order to succeed in their ultimate goal of killing King Duncan. Indicated, is her willingness to ensure Macbeth obtains kingship, placing Macbeth at the pinnacle of her priorities. This ironically correlates adequately to the role of women in the early 17th century where They were expected to show full support of their husbands, but Lady Macbeths plan is one of deception for she knows that Macbeth will find it difficult to hide his anxiety in plotting against the king, having just returned from serving him. This statement is further enforced when she tells Macbeth “look th’innocent flower and be the serpent under it”. The use of the “serpent” says it all as the image conjures visions of the Genesis story where the Serpent’s deception resulted in the fall of mankind.

Presentation of character can be explored by observing what Lady Macbeth says and through thus her evil is recognised. Lady Macbeth is illustrated as a cruel character because she requests the evil spirits to “unsex” her. The use of the word “unsex” shows that Lady Macbeth does not possess the masculine qualities required to perform such an evil deed. This shows how far Lady Macbeth’s wickedness goes as she herself understands that in order to carry out the deed she must become more masculine and deceptive. This understanding is shown when she asks the evil spirits to fill her “direst” cruelty so that she can execute the deed of murdering the king. Shakespeare’s use of the superlative “direst” suggests that Lady Macbeth not only wants to be evil but the utmost evil one can be. Lady Macbeth’s desires to succeed are further stressed by her wanting her womanhood to vanish. This is shown when she further asks the spirits to “take my milk for gall”. This image implies that a necessary sacrifice of herself must be made. Lady Macbeth’s use of the word “gall” is suggesting that she is willing to allow her milk to become so rancorous that it would be seen as poison. This shows her new nature as having no conscience as no parent would be able live with themselves knowing that they are contributing to their infant’s ruin, however Lady Macbeth is not any ordinary woman; as she is ready to sacrifice her femininity to guarantee that she gets what want she wants.

Moreover, Shakespeare again shows her cruelty in Act 1 Scene 7, when Lady Macbeth is presented in taking her spite against the innocent. She is plots to frame the innocent guards. “…upon/his spongy officers who shall bear the guilt/ of our great quell” The use of the word “quell” suggests that she is mustering a great plan and with this scheme will come evil which is shown through the word “guilt”. The word guilt implies that what she is intending to do is will bear consequences and repercussions, of which she is fully aware. Then Shakespeare’s description of the officers being “spongy” tells us that the officers will absorb her guilt, regardless of the fact that she acknowledges their innocence. How malevolent!

Similarly, Curley’s wife is presented as evil (comparable to Lady Macbeth) when she verbally attacks Crooks, using her superior social status as a white woman. As in section 4, she puts Crooks into submission with lynching because of her jealousy of the relationship and the thought of their dream becoming a reality, “ I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” Curley’s wife threat is very forthcoming and suggests in 1930’s all of African-American descent were frowned upon as the lowest of the social hierarchy which led them to being treated differently from the whites (portrayed by the way Crooks is segregated from the rest of the people from the bunkhouse). Her use of the verb “get” exhibits her power as she manipulates her social status to express her wrath and jealousy. Moreover she further exploits their weakness “ Nobody’d listen to you” further shows her evil. However this is rather ironic as nobody listens her to. As she is lives a solitary life, constantly searching for attention and companionship. Here we see her influence within the renach, as she constantly reminds them her link with the boss and Curley. She shuts down everybody in her way. This shows her juxtaposition to Lady Macbeth as, like Lady Macbeth they are both insignificant without their husbands.

Structurally, we are introduced to Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 5, as a loving wife who wants to see her husband succeed. “and shalt be What thou art promised!” exhibiting her inclination after reading the letter from Macbeth towards power. This in turn shows how determined she is to fulfil her ambition of becoming queen. “ Hie thee hither – That I pour my spirits in thine ear” the use of the this phrase not only shows her manipulation but also her strength as she is willing to manipulate her own husband in order to get her crown. “ and chastise with the valour of my tongue”, the use of the word ”chastise” symbolises that Lady Macbeth is going to be so persistent with this deed that Macbeth with simply have no choice but to do what Lady Macbeth pleases, which only further proves how determined she is. Through the structure, Shakespeare makes it evident that Lady Macbeth's strength clearly develops over the course of the play it; Develops further closer to the death of Duncan but decreases after it. She is guilt ridden, “All the perfumes of arabia will not sweaten this little hand” and with guilt comes the weakness of a woman. It is ironic that she her attitude of “A little water clears of this deed” no longer works for her. She also acknowledges “Yet I have known those which have walked in their sleep, who have died holily in their beds” this reference implies that only those who repent for their sins can truly die holily in their sleep but as Lady Macbeth is guilt ridden, weak, she cannot bring herself to repent for her sins as she spends all her sleeping moments re-enacting the deed, ultimately exhibiting her lack of strength.

In contrast, structurally Curley's wife who is introduced as a sexual object, through the use of the possessive apostrophe in her name “Curley's wife”. She cannot escape from the sexual image that the other men have of her. She therefore cultivates this image as a means of getting noticed, to talk to someone, anyone. Before we are presented to her, Candy talks about her, to George and Lennie the protagonists of the novella. She is spoken about in a gossipy manner. “I think Curley’s married a … tart.” Steinbeck is prejudicing or preparing us for the character of Curley’s wife. He does this, and we are influenced by what is about Curley’s wife and the way she acts.

We develop an initial perception of Curley’s wife as being flirtatious and promiscuous. This is shown at the physical introduction, of Curley’s wife. Steinbeck first introduces us to her appearance, “full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes…” Curley’s wife’s life has been suggested to us as someone who is trying to be displayed as a sexual object. She would be doing this to attract attention. The colour red is often considered for portraying a sign of danger or sex. Steinbeck portrays these signs frequently, “red mules…red ostrich feathers.” In doing this, it is suggesting to the reader that Curley’s wife is “jailbait”. Thus foreshadowing disaster for the protagonist and herself. Curley’s wife likes to take care of her appearance. In Steinbeck’s description of her, he says, “…heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters” this suggests to the reader that she is trying to get attention or showing that she is acting as a ”tart”. She has no real reason to pay strong devotion to her appearances; this is because she is married and there are no other women on the ranch. Some may argue her ambition to become an actress might of encouraged this, Moreover, she should have no one to impress. We may think that she is trying to impress her husband, however, later on in the novel, we learn that she does not like or respect her husband, nor does he respect her... In death however we see her true innocence revealed. Steinbeck informs us “the ache for attention were all gone from her face” .

Both Shakespeare and Steinbeck present their protagonists in death. Duplicity can be classed as conspicuous within both texts as a portrayal of the deaths of the two main female protagonists is clear. The fact that Lady Macbeth is drained of her power provided by the evil spirits is confirmed. ‘Out damned spot! Out I say! ‘ serves as an opportunity for the audience to acknowledge this. The repetition present in this instance shows the utter confusion which she is being saturated with and her lack of control. The exclamation mark used highlights her being unable to deal with this lack of understanding and her aggravation begins to sprout. The theme of isolation is additionally presented through her death. Besides the doctor and the gentlewoman Lady Macbeth is alone. Her husband is absent from her death further supporting her isolation. The way in which her Macbeth reacts to her death is integral. ‘I ‘gin to be aweary of the sun’ is an example of this. Here Macbeth is stressing the fact that the point in life no longer remains and has suddenly vanished. The sentiment within their relationship is made discernible as portrayed in this situation is the fact that Lady Macbeth felt life no longer had any value and was not worth living. The reader has little or no sympathy for her.

The death of Curleys wife can be categorized as different in comparison to Lady Macbeth’s. The limitless amount of love once shown by Macbeth is never replicated by Curley. Never displayed to the reader is a time in which he shows affection towards his wife, thus showing that their relationship was based on impulse rather than intimacy. ‘A pigeon flew in through the open hay door and circled and flew out again’ is Steinbeck utilizing an image of freedom. her death has now freed her from her solitary confinement and the grasps of the hostile atmosphere imposed by her husband and the ranch hands. Sympathy begins to inundate the reader as is her death. ‘The meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face/very pretty and simple and her face was sweet and young” Steinbeck sympathises with his character and encourages readers to be overcome with nothing but affinity for her. We are left in awe as we compare her death to the to the first time in which she is introduced. She is to be pitied.

Ultimately, highlighted is the way in which Shakespeare and Steinbeck choose to portray their female characters atypical personalities. The time period in each text focus on how women were treated. At the time- early seventeenth century and 1930’s America. Additionally an appliance of the authorial voices causes the reader to evaluate their preconceived conceptions, for as readers we dislike both females almost immediately after they are presented. Subsequently, however, the flaw in their in their husbands not guiding their wives - lead to their eventual downfall. Both authors reveal that husbands had the responsibility of controlling their wives and they both failed to this. The female protagonists paid the ultimate price – their lives

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