How are characters presented as disturbed in Macbeth, Laboratory and My Last Duchess?

It is important to be able to define what ‘disturbed’ actually means in order to answer this question to a high standard of explanation. Disturbed is an adjective and it is the showing of symptoms of mental illness, severe psychosis and neurosis. It is also useful to consider the audiences of each poem or play to elaborate on explanations.

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Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, is set during the eleventh century is about the emotional manipulation of individuals and the lust for power and the upmost authority over a victorious Scotland featuring an Elizabethan audience whereas Robert Browning’s poems, Laboratory and My Last Duchess, is about the overcoming of jealously and betrayal set during the Victorian era with a Victorian audience. Macbeth in the beginning of the play is a noble, humble and honourable person who, without question would sacrifice his life for the liberty of his King, Duncan.

As the play progresses he attitude towards life in general changes completely, mainly due to the pressure that Lady Macbeth inflicts on him. However, Lady Macbeth has quite a surprising personality as she is not the stereotypical Elizabethan woman. Lady Macbeth is expected to be fragile, meek, innocent and comforting but in this unusual circumstance Lady Macbeth would very much rather “dashed the brains out” of an infant child. This is plain evidence to suggest that Lady Macbeth is of no stable condition.

In addition to this surprising fact Lady Macbeth is cunning and bloodthirsty. She demands Macbeth in Act one, Scene Five to “look like th’innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t”. It is very common for a man to demand a female to pursue tasks but for a woman to demand a man, especially of something like sacrilege, is very unusual. This could mean two things, Macbeth is weak and is unable to depict his own decisions or/and that Macbeth is mentally deteriorating.

Macbeth reason with Lady Macbeths orders in his soliloquy in Act one, Scene seven and from the things he points out such as “his faculties are so meek” gives the reader/viewer sympathy for Macbeth suggests that Macbeth is of a stable condition and is able to rationalize his views and interpretation “we will proceed no further in this business”. Lady Macbeth realises that herself and Macbeth in Act one, Scene Five are “too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” and therefore aggressively requests to the spirits “unsex me here and fill me here from the crown to the toe-top full of direst cruelty”.

The tone and images that are tagged along with this quote are very dark and ‘cold hearted’, also notice the word used to describe the type of cruelty, ‘full of direst cruelty’. Not only does Lady Macbeth want to be cruel but she wants to be completely ‘full of’ the ‘direst cruelty’. It is at this exact point when it becomes possible to claim that Lady Macbeth is at the top of the spiral to insanity. The choice of language is compelling as if she felt no sympathy for King Duncan.

Lady Macbeth uses harsh and violent sounding vocabulary to stress her ambitions “Hie thee hither”, the use of alliteration attracts the attention of audience signifying that she purposely wants people to know really how serious she is similarly in Laboratory the persona demonstrates her willingness to commit a felony “Grind away, moisten and mash up thy paste, pound at thy powder”, there is a use of harsh and violent sounding vocabulary and there is a use of alliteration to make an appeal to the audience.

During the Elizabethan era a particular doctrine was in place because of the religious relationship involved with that patriarchal society, a feudal system was in place meaning that Sacrilege was unfaithful to such an extent that Hell was certain to be your destination. The fact that Lady Macbeth urges Macbeth to commit sacrilege is, without saying, disturbing because the King (especially at that time) is Gods representative and killing God just to achieve power is so insane that you could argue that she is ‘demon possessed’.

Macbeth and the poem Laboratory are both similar in terms of the unusual language used, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow”, a quote by Macbeth in his final soliloquy, in act five, scene five, before to his soliloquy Lady Macbeth had committed suicide which was inevitably an act of sin and therefore ‘the afterlife’ would be spend in hell for eternity “We’ld jump the life to come.

But in these cases We still have judgment here”, which meant Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (at least Macbeth) were both aware that they had committed felonies during their current life including sacrilege giving the idea that Macbeth was aware of his wrongdoings telling us that Macbeth was not psychotically weak but instead attempted to improvise the situation so at least he had something to live for. This also gives the audience sympathy for Macbeth because he is able to rationalize his opinions and justifications.

The persona uses similar unusual language to Macbeth “And her breasts and her arms should drop dead! ” Stanza six, the repetition of the connective ‘and’ in the Macbeth and the Laboratory poem is used to emphasis their feelings and emotions. In addition to this the persona in Laboratory uses an exclamation mark at the end of her sentence revealing to us that she is certain that she wants this devil orientated scenario to occur in reality, on the other hand, Macbeth says his quote (mentioned above) in a calm, soothing manner.

I am able to say this because Macbeth uses no form of extreme punctuation to object otherwise. This obviously is a difference suggesting that Macbeth is in fact sane because he is clearly pointing out that he has realised that “life’s but a walking shadow”. There are indeed multiple differences that make Laboratory and Macbeth very unalike indeed.

The largest and most obvious variance between these two highly interpreted pieces of literature is that Laboratory is actually a poem of emotion and the outburst of frustration. The persona in Laboratory can be argued to be neurotic because of her intentions but these are just intentions whereas in Macbeth Lady Macbeths intentions are fulfilled, the killing of King Duncan. Laboratory is very much an extreme retaliation of revenge and hatred.