King Duncan arrives at Macbeth's castle. It is a scene of great tranquillity, where nature is at peace. Even
Lady Macbeth's speech of welcome drips with human kindness.
NATURE vs EVIL
In Shakespearian times, nature was considered to be God's playground, a place of peace and holiness.
Within this holiness lies human nature itself. A holy king -- like Duncan or Edward of England -- was
seen to have had the gift of healing in his hands.
Evil, however, can destroy all of this -- and evil comes into human nature through the devil. Once
corrupted, human nature will then wreak havoc in nature itself.
Shakespeare uses a clever counterbalance of good and evil in these scenes. While Act 1, Scene 6
presents the holiness of nature, Act 1, Scene 7 reveals the exact opposite: the triumph of evil in the
person of Lady Macbeth.
Macbeth has thought out the logic of his loyalty to Duncan and how he should be defending the king and
not murdering him. He is then confronted with a bullying wife who humiliates him into submission.
Lady Macbeth takes the perfect example of woman's nature -- a mother's natural instinct while suckling
her baby -- and overturns it: "I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from
his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this."
The audience is left aghast at this barefaced barbarity -- and then one witnesses Macbeth crumble to
become Lady Macbeth's lapdog once again.
Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?