Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Freud

Today in class we took notes on Sigmund Freud, maybe the most famous psychologist in history and the guy whose statue sits in Clark’s Red Square.

After reading act 1 scene 7 today (1.7), we talked about one of Lady Macbeth’s most analyzed lines:

“I have given suck and know how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.
I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from its boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done this.” (1.7.54)

Put yourself in Freud’s shoes and do some psychoanalyzing of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. How do we see Freudian ideas represented in both of their characters? What are her own motivations for her ambition to make her husband king, and why do you think he follows? Write your “diagnosis” in the comments.

Advertisements

32 thoughts on “Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Freud

  1. Freudian ideas consisted of the beliefs on the unconscious and subconscious mind. Freudian ideas are being shown in the text between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth when it is per se, “crunch time” for the duo to make their decision whether to kill King Duncan or not. Lady Macbeth is shown pressuring Macbeth into killing King Duncan by using dark and inhumane thoughts and suggestions. In scene 5 of “Macbeth”, Lady Macbeth is depicted as talking to herself, frustrated about her powerless role in Macbeth’s situation,”Come you spirits..unsex me here and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty..that my keen knife see not the wound it makes, nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, to cry ‘hold, hold’!” (Shakespeare, 17). This is interpreted as Lady Macbeth’s willingness to take on burden of killings King Duncan herself. In Freudian ideas, Lady Macbeth is not a healthy human being. This is because she lacks the Super ego; the conscience. This disables her to see the difference between right and wrong, this also leaves her two out of the three aspects of her mind (again, in Freudian ideology). Her “Id”, which controls all of her basic emotions, is plagued with anger and desire for Macbeth’s eventful place as king. The “ego” is the set of psychic functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory, also known as our source of reason and common sense (Id, Ego, Super Ego, Wikipedia). The ego’s main priority is to please that of the “Id” (Id, Ego, Super Ego, Wikipedia). In which case, Lady Macbeth’s ego is required to carry out the intentions of her “Id” and her will. Her ego is shown through her private intentions as revealed in scene 5.
    On the other hand, Macbeth is displayed as a quite healthy character. His “Id” (basic emotions) consist of fear, desire, and uncertainty. His ego carries out his Id by seeking out the answer that Macbeth truly wants to receive. Macbeth goes to his wife who constantly persuades him to kill Macbeth given the opportunity, “If we should fail? (Macbeth) We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail… His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt of our great quell? (Lady Macbeth)” (Macbeth, 23). Macbeth goes to his wife to justify his decision, not in the sense of it being the right choice, but in the sense of they won’t get caught. Macbeth also has a super ego, which acts as his conscience. As portrayed in the scene, Macbeth is constantly second guessing his decision much to the dismay of Lady Macbeth. Despite being a “healthy” human, Macbeth is on way to becoming an unhealthy human because he is ignoring his super ego.
    Lady Macbeth’s motivation for making Macbeth king is her greed for power. In the context of the time of Macbeth, women were not in power, so having their husband in power, I assume, is the next best option. Either that, or Lady Macbeth really loves Macbeth.In agreement to Jyselle, the thought of being King has already been implanted into Macbeth’s head. Macbeth follows his wife because he also has a greed for power that he has yet to embrace. In addition to his greed, he also has what every man in this time coveted– their pride. Lady Macbeth calls Macbeth a coward, for refusing to meddle with King Duncan, in which he replies, “I dare do all that may become a man” (Shakespeare, 22). One may argue that one of the reasons that Macbeth is following his wife is because he is not any less of a man.

    Like

    • NIce work, Johnny. You bring up a lot of discussion points here, such as whether or not Lady Macbeth actually loves her husband and wants what’s best for him, or if she’s just power-hungry. You’ve also touched on Macbeth’s mental state, saying that at least for now he seems to be mentally healthier than his wife. As balanced as his id/ego/superego might be now, I think we’ve all predicted they’ll unhinge pretty soon.

      Like

  2. Sigmund Freud’s ideas represent the idea that your mind is made up in 3 different parts. The three parts include you ID, Ego and Superego which all come back to Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth believes she’s much more powerful than she perceives, she throws away her “femininity” in order to emphasize that she is capable. She wants Macbeth to put her in charge, it’s her instinct, her ID, except her ego may not agree. She’s all for it. Since Macbeth has to kill King Duncan, in order to be king-he has to kill him, in which his super ego comes along. Lady Macbeth’s super ego also agrees with the actions which have to be made to inherit the throne.
    Macbeth is big on the ideologies of free association, dreams and sexuality. The sexuality part is more of Lady Macbeth, but the free association and dreams is Macbeth, absolutely. Macbeth does believe that Duncan is a good leader, his thought have just been corrupt, thanks to the three witches. The only thing driving Macbeth at the moment is his ambition. Freud’s ideologies overall talk about one-self and the theoretical “wants,” “needs,” and just complete injustices we have to deal with disregarding the out-of-this-world Oedipus and Electra complex. Free association meaning he’ll team up with anyone to do what his mind thinks he HAS to do, to obey the words of the witches. If you ask me, I think Macbeth has gone over his head for an unrealistic them, but then that could be Freud’s whole point to his ideologies.

    Like

    • “Lady Macbeth believes she’s much more powerful than she perceives, she throws away her “femininity” in order to emphasize that she is capable.”

      We’re going to spend a lot of time soon talking about gender in this play — who’s masculine, who’s feminine, who’s somewhere in between. Good analysis, Karen! Also, your point about dreams will become a major part of the play too.

      Like

  3. My diagnosis on Lady Macbeth is that she has been severely influenced by her childhood by some messed up relationship with her parents. If she says that she would kill her child while she embraces them that must mean something similar happened to her when she was a child. She has no sympathy towards her own children so her parents must have had none for her too. Her mind is all out balance because her “id” is taking over control of her “ego” and “superego”. Her desire of having power is so stong that her conscience and rational part of her brain is not working anymore. Her desire to have power must come from her childhood too. Maybe she was seen as a weak women who was abused or something similar. Now that she has the chance to have power and prove to whoever that she is strong, she is going to cling on to that till it destroys her. Macbeth himself is still somewhat in balance because even though his “id” desires to be king, he knows that it means killing the king and his son, which he doesn’t want to do. But slowly with the help of his wife and his “id” taking over he’s losing his rational sense. Now both of their ambition is geting stronger and stronger so I can just predict that it’s going to lead to some murders. Especially Lady Macbeth who is determined and ambitious to right a certain wrong in her mind so she is going to keep influencing Macbeth. Macbeth is going to follow what she says because part of him wants to be king anyways but the only thing standing in his way is his conscience but his ambition is growing and his wife is just adding wood to the flame.

    Like

  4. Tina, good angle with discussing how potential past events have shaped Lady Macbeth’s thoughts that she would kill a baby to make Macbeth king. We’re going to spend time tomorrow dissecting whether or not Lady Macbeth even had kids — but maybe we should ask if her parents had similar lack of regard for human life too.

    Like

  5. In the last scene in Act 1 Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan the murder of Duncan which was led by what they thought, but was being contradicted by what they felt. Like Sigmund Freud said, their is three parts to the human mind that makes you as a person/ personality. Starting with who you are (ID), your ego and your superego which played at factor in both of these characters decision. Lady Macbeth has a courageous personality since she is not afraid of what would happen as long as Macbeth is king. He motivates her to motivate him to kill Duncan to become king if that makes sense. Her personality is so bold and brave she motivates Macbeth to kill Duncan I say this because Macbeth stated in line 72 “For thy undaunted mettle should compose.” This line really grasped my attention because this let me know why Macbeth decided top follow what she said and why she motivates him to do as she say. This line demonstrates how Macbeth praises Lady Macbeth’s personality, since she is so brave. Making her fearless and strong. Macbeth loves this so much about Lady Macbeth he states that they should only have male kids in order for courageous personality be based on to a son. In order to make the son a brave and strong warrior since the son can demonstrate this in battle. This is why Macbeth decided to continue with the plan not letting his super ego get in the way criticizing what he is doing or doubting himself.

    Like

    • So Macbeth has so much respect for Lady Macbeth’s personality that his super ego – the part of his mind that governs what society thinks about our thoughts or actions – defers to her instead? That’s a pretty cool idea, Eddie.

      Like

  6. Although Macbeth seems like quite the split character seeing as how he wants and yet doesn’t want to be king, lady macbeth is quite scary to even speak of. Her motives are quite clear to be frank, if her husband were king she would also be granted much lower over the people. women although weren’t the biggest in places of power, she could still have a huge voice in the matter of many diplomatic scenes and issues, being the king’s wife and all. not only this, but as well as the luxury or being queen, although it is true that thanes and their fair ladies had many lively pleasantries, it was nothing compared to being in the royal placement. one would have immense power, compared to the small amount given to thanes through small villages and lands. I presume that these are the most clear motives in the fair/unwell maiden macbeth, there also comes the simple placement of power and control at one’s finger tips which must ultimately be the most tempting one of all.
    now to diagnose these two young (crazy) lovers, lets delve into their personalities and the freudian ideas. now to be clearly honest, it seems that macbeth is very well into a split when it comes to his ego, seeing as how he doesn’t want to kill his friend, but also has a sense of self worth, this could be due to his Id, which by instinct we wish to rule our selves as well as be leader of a pack. these could be the two that keep breaking macbeth in two, but his superego is what really holding him together, the thought of killing his own friend and offspring would be frowned upon by the public eye, and all want to be accepted, not outcasted.
    Lady macbeth is a bit different, it seems that she has a very sadistic and yet cunning personality, seeing as how she wisely hides her thoughts to her own ears, meaning that her superego is still very much in tact, seeing as how she knows of the harms that it would cause to stage a dethroning. yet her ego is starting to wear thin, as her thoughts seem to go less from, keep it hidden to more, stabby, stabby. her Id is also responsible for this, as just as her husband, she desires the instinct of power over others.

    Like

    • Eli, what do you mean by the “instinct of power over others”? How can power be instinctive? And if Macbeth’s super ego is holding him together, then how can we explain his murder of Duncan? Maybe you’re agreeing with Eddie above, that Lady Mac has become Mac’s super ego?

      Like

  7. She is acting like this for one reason, because of greed. She has a good life, or seems to, but who would be willing to kill their child just to have a better life? Maybe she plans on killing him when he’s king, and she’ll become queen? She clearly doesn’t care for her family. Sad but true. Once the idea was put in her head she sees how obtainable it is.

    Like

  8. Freud diverged the human psych into three subunits being the ID, ego, and superego. These basic subunits and their interrelationship manifests in the actions, statements, and contemplations of both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth.
    The ID is defines as human instinct and impulse. It is the unconscious desires we have that are inexorably present. The ID of lady Macbeth and of Macbeth are the initial murderous instincts to achieve their goal of king. Although this isn’t an inherent inclination, the ID seeks the most plausible and realistic way of achieving a goal in a morally and practically intrinsic manner. Much of our ID is suppressed and unspoken, rather implied by the filtered actions of the unanimous subunits. An example of this is when Lady Macbeth assaults Macbeth’s masculinity at his hesitance to follow through with his ID’s demands stating “when you durst do it, then you were a man” (Shakespeare, 49). Lady Macbeth associates being a man to following through with the unmoral demands of his ID, she implies that the action would be natural and is essential to complete his man-complex. This is a direct example of the ego, however, which seeks to justify and modify the IDs desires into a personally acceptable form. Lady Macbeth justifies the murder by using the above methods of denouncing his identity as a man. This is also represented when she states “Screw you’re courage to the sticking place” (Shakespeare, 60). Lady Macbeth uses the analogy of a sticking place to imply his courage is in the wrong place. Using freudian thinking and the use of a physical position it is reasonable to say the sticking place is akin to acclimating Macbeth’s superego, societal morality, to the justifications of his ego. The sticking place is an allegory for his ego, and Lady Macbeth is attempting to coax the idea of the actions immorality to acquiesce to its benefits and filtered desires of the ID. My diagnosis is that Lady Macbeth has neglected her superego and committed to her ego and indirectly, her ID. She is blind to the moral implications and personal as well as social ramifications associated with killing the king and strategically convinces Macbeth to follow through due to his diagnosis. I diagnose Macbeth with a conflict of his ego and superego. His superego understand the morality involved in murdering someone and his ego initially does not have the capacity to dominate his superego, this is demonstrated when he states “we will proceed with this business no further” (Shakespeare, 31) the antecedent of business being the murder. However, with the aid of his wife’s claims his ego gained enough power to overwhelm and ultimately obstruct his superego in an overall ego domination, and indirect ID domination.
    Like the three branches of government ID super ego and ego all check each other to deliver an overall personal and socially acceptable action. In this case, one branch was given too much power, tipping the balance and changing their capability to rationally access the situation, resulting in possibly catastrophic consequences.

    Like

    • “Lady Macbeth associates being a man to following through with the unmoral demands of his ID, she implies that the action would be natural and is essential to complete his man-complex.”
      Nice job, Lucas – I like the diagnoses you provided for Mac and Lady Mac. Freud’s some weird stuff, huh?

      Like

  9. Sigmund Freud’s claim to fame was that he was an Austrian psychologist who developed the idea that the human brain is divided into three parts: the superego, the ego, and the id. The id is the part of the brain that drives anything we want, ranging from pleasure to anything else that keeps us alive, i.e., human urges. The ego is the part of the brain that tries to please the id in such a way that does not violate cultural norms, so that the person can have what he or she wants, in a realistic matter. The superego is the one that takes in the information about the cultural norms that society has placed where the person lives, and tries to grant the ambitions that the person wants, using things from the ego and the id to achieve that goal.
    The basic theory connects with Macbeth and his wife because they have ambitions to become the royal couple of Scotland, but Macbeth realises that in order to gain that power he has to murder Duncan, which represents the id of both characters. Macbeth is represented as the ego in this story because he wants to become king, but only if Duncan dies on his own, because he feels that if he murders him for his own drive, then he will fill guilty in the end. His wife is the id, because she has the same ambitions the Macbeth does in wanting to become king, but she feels that her husband is too much of a cautious person to go alone with he wants, so she will do it for him. Banquo is the superego, because he thinks that Macbeth will be king, since he has inherited new titles of nobility, while he believes that he will never have children who will be kings, since he is below Macbeth in the social organisation of Scotland. As the story progresses, we see how a change in any one of these part of the brain will affect everyone, because we will always fix the balance of human emotions when it is unbalanced.
    I think that Macbeth’s wife wants her husband to become king, because she has a lust for power in order to be a person that matters in Scotland, being in a position where she and Macbeth can make a great difference in society, rather than just being a lord and a lady. She assumes the role of trying to stoop down to the level of tyrants, because she thinks that, unless she or Macbeth will assassinate Duncan ad take the crown, Macbeth cannot be king and she will not matter to anyone else but him.

    Like

    • “Macbeth is represented as the ego in this story because he wants to become king, but only if Duncan dies on his own, because he feels that if he murders him for his own drive, then he will fill guilty in the end.”
      So you’re seeing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as the personification of a person’s id. For example, if Scotland is the “person”, then Mac and Lady Mac represent its id. What characters would represent the ego and super ego? This is a pretty cool idea, Dominik! Keep thinking about this, especially as more characters get introduced.

      Like

  10. I see Freud’s ideas represented in Macbeth because of his subconscious desires. He wants to be king and he knows what needs to happen for him to be king. But he is unaware of his own desires to kill Duncan himself. That desires became clear to him after talking to Lady Macbeth. I see Freud’s ideas about sexuality in Lady Macbeth when she says “unsex me,” meaning that she does not want to be a women for the time so she can do things that would not be “lady like” or “men’s work”.
    I think her motivations fro Macbeth to become king is to kill Duncan herself and show Macbeth that the “roles” are switched and he is now the women and she is the man. I think he follows what she is doing because subconsciously that’s what he wants he wants the “roles” to be switched and to have her be in control because he can’t take control.

    Like

    • “She does not want to be a women for the time so she can do things that would not be “lady like” or “men’s work”.”
      You mean she would want to do men’s work, right? Check out that Thomson article I handed out before our Freud on the Couch assignment. How does Thomson’s Freudian reading of Lady Mac’s character explain her role as the only woman in the play? This fits in with where you’re going here.

      Like

  11. Sigmund Freud’s theory on the subconscious mind called the psychic apparatus was a structural model consisting of three main entities, the Id, ego, and superego. The id is the drive for what we desire and human instincts needed for survival. The ego satisfies the id in a safe socially acceptable way and follows the reality principle. The superego is responsible for the morality of decisions.

    Like

    • Freud’s theory relates to macbeth and his wife as they are subconsciously planning King Duncan’s death for their desire to become the royal couple. The id here is their desire or drive to become king and having to kill off the king. Macbeth’s ego is to let the king die on his own and eventually taking over in a socially acceptable way, or a way without guilt. Since lady macbeth kills the king for macbeth she does not follow her superego which is the morality aspect. She put her morals aside to directly satisfy her ego and id, to kill the king and gain power of this realm. When lady macbeth says, “when you durst do it, then you were a man” (Shakespeare, 49) to macbeth this is to justify her assassination of the king, subconsciously complying to just her id and ego. Lady macbeth’s three entities are not well balanced because she is taken over by her id, macbeth had some balanced until the loss of consciousness in his wife affected his thinking and turned him into her, thinking it is acceptable to do such a thing.

      Like

      • Brian, what is the “reality principle?” When you use terms like these — ones that are specific to a field of study or very academic, make sure you explain what they are for casual readers. Nice cause/effect though of how Mac and Lady Mac’s personalities are affecting one another.

        Like

  12. The further we get into Macbeth we see Lady Macbeth and her true colors where we find that she tends to be a bit strange or over obsessive of Macbeth being king. She wants that power and she wants that entitlement because it will give her the power she does not have. Lady Macbeth even goes on and saying ”Come you spirits. unsex me here and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty.” (Shakespeare, 17). It is clear that Lady Macbeth finds there to be little use for herself and once Macbeth gets to be king she has some sort of leeway into power.
    This leads to the manipulation we see during the conversations between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth where she edges him on to go and kill Duncan. And Macbeth follows because who else is he going to follow, he was told by three witches he will become king. Of course there is going to be some sort of confusion going on through his head. And instead of thinking about a viable meaning behind the witches goal he has his wife to guide him through what he needs to do. This is easier understood for him than trying to think of other ways of becoming king. The king gets killed dies, Macbeth gets the throne, though not the smartest pathway it is still a way for Macbeth to become King.
    So here we have a man who is dumbfounded and wants answer and then we have his power hungry wife who is offering him an answer which is to kill Duncan, which by all means is the simplest way of thinking about what the three witches told him.

    Like

  13. Freudian ideas are both represented in both of the characters
    in many ways. Macbeth’s physical manifestation shows that
    he’s not fully aware of his actions due to his desires of
    becoming king. In order to become king legally Macbeth must kill
    Duncan and his two sons. Hallucination also is displayed,
    there was the scene where Macbeth was seeing a dagger and thinks
    about killing Duncan but in reality there wasn’t a dagger. And for
    Lady Macbeth her desires of her husband becoming king is
    that she’ll do whatever it takes to help. Even if that means stopping
    her baby from breast feeding and bash the brains out. The two
    have become so desperate that there id has taken over without them
    realizing. This is just like when a bodybuilder gets called small, he
    thinks about it then he starts doing what it takes to become bigger.
    He starts to eat more and starts to dream about dumb bells. He
    doesn’t even realize that one word turned to an obsession. You
    must do what it takes.

    Like

    • Jerry, good analogy with the weight lifter. Don’t forget to cite lines from the text, like in the line you found about the dagger Macbeth hallucinates, he has the part about a “false dagger of the mind”.

      Like

  14. How I see Freud ideas about secret desire in Macbeth in the scene that Freud is seeing a sword to kill in front of him to kill Macbeth. His secret is that he want to kill Macbeth so he become king. Freud is going craziness /mental/ illness he sleep talking/walking. Trying a way to kill Macbeth. so he can become king after he kill Macbeth when he get a sword to kill him.

    Like

    • Jean, this play is all about secret desires. Lady Macbeth has them too. Keep in mind that Macbeth has killed King Duncan and Sigmund Freud is just a real life guy whose ideas we’re using to analyze the play.

      Like

  15. Knowing that lady Macbeth and Macbeth have the desire to kill poor King Duncan. There minds are playing tricks with them, based on Sigmund Freud analogy of how the brains tend to work and how our conscious work to drive us to our ambition either if its good or bad. Based on Lady Macbeth her drive to making her husband king I think it might be that she wants to be in power and think her husband doesn’t make the perfect cut being king. So she manipulating Macbeth into doing things that his wife tell him and taking into consideration what the witches said about his fate. But he fall into his dirty conscious and its making him hallucinate death and weapons and murdering something so that his subconscious playing a roll in his desire and his Id playing with his rage. But then when he mixes it with his ego of self importance and self image its gets him more crazy of a person and drives him more to do it.
    But with Lady Macbeth she’s a whole another story, she’s the one driving Macbeth to kill Duncan because if her Electra complex didn’t get in the way she would of done it because her husband was second guessing the plan that his WIFE created. Her Id gets in the way of her plan and her relationship, with her sex/lust and also her anger of waiting for her husband to kill Duncan. I feel like she has to much ego in her that it gets to her and misses up with her lust and her relationship with Macbeth. Her thoughts are nightmares of killing a poor child while your breast feeding bashing its brains out. I think the only reason why Macbeth follows is because he wants to please his wife in so many ways.

    Like

  16. Its simple though macbeth is the male his wife lady macbeth has the mentality of a power hungry war lord or even king because even though it seems like she wants her husband to be king shes really doing it for her self and her greed and self pleasure if you really look at it lady macbeth is very self centered and selfish she does things that will only benefit herself and she will not do something for the greater good if its not her greater good. macbeth is naive and lets his wife messed up way of life influence his way of thinking and he just goes with the flow macbeth isnt really a authority figure hes more like a golden boy everyone likes macbeth but no one really respects him just the title he holds macbeth is naive and gullible and is a psuhover when it comes to his wife. he follows his wife because he has coward like traits and his wife preys on that macbeth follows his wife because he is naive.

    Like

  17. Freudian ideas are represented in both of their characters because they are just informed of something, and how they behave and speak after that one piece of information, reveals their true beliefs and intentions. For example, after the witches predict the future of macbeth, lady macbeth says “I have given suck and know how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from its boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done this.” (1.7.54) just coming to show that she is willing to do and sacrifice the most bizarre things for macbeth to be king. Her ambition to make macbeth king is her want for power women had no option to posess any type power, so macbeth having power will hopefully boost her among the rest, i believe macbeth decides to follow lady macbeth because he isn’t sure of where he stands, so she is guiding him as he finds his greed for power.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s