Marriage Minute # 94 Macbeth (a hard lesson) from my book, Marriage Minutes, available at Amazon.com
Let’s take a minute and visit that great marriage and family therapist of many years ago. I speak of none other than William Shakespeare, himself. He told us about Macbeth and his wife, and how things are Not supposed to be.
Act one, scene seven, opens with Macbeth struggling within himself about the thoughts of murdering the king. His conscience is about to win out, when the struggle gets harder. He considers this royal friend of his, Duncan, one who has a reputation for kindness, but where has the kindness gotten him. He is about to be executed. Will Macbeth keep his own kindness? Will he give up on what doesn’t seem to be working for others? But, he cannot possibly murder the king. Enter Lady Macbeth. Finding that Macbeth is feeling virtuous, again, she attacks him with accusations of cowardliness; this Macbeth who is an honored and valiant warrior. Yet, this one person’s opinion seems to affect Macbeth beyond measure. It is then that Macbeth makes one of his greatest statements…
“I dare do all that may become a man; who does do more is none.”
Sadly, this may have been the last time he would say such a fine truth. Lady Macbeth begins to excoriate him with words meant to bring about shame. Isn’t he a “real man”, after all? Doesn’t he “love” her? These thoughts will seem familiar to the modern mind since coercion and emotional bribery are still part of the perverted views of marriage that some “modern” people still hold.
Yes, Macbeth will stab Duncan when he is unguarded and he will smear the blood upon the innocent chamberlains. Macbeth becomes someone he has never been, and hides his true self, saying, “false face must hide what false heart doth know.”
Every time Macbeth begins to waver, Lady Macbeth gives him a speech about, of all things, manhood. She appears mild and gentle to the world, but behind the scenes she is vicious. “Now, be a good boy, and go out there and kill the king!” (No, that wasn’t Shakespeare, but it could have been how she said it.)
This kind of interchange can sound painfully like some modern discussions. They happen when a man believes that true manhood must be discovered in the eyes and estimates of one or more other persons, rather than discovered in the true meanings of goodness, They happen when a woman believes that true womanhood must be discovered and played out in secret games, rather than discovered in the true meanings of goodness.
This same Macbethian crime occurs when a man or a woman uses love to coerce and bribe another person. When they use shame as a weapon they ignore the fact that true love need never be more important than conscience, since true love doesn’t tempt one to do evil.
Among other things, this story also shows that true manhood and true womanhood cannot be defined by appearances. Macbeth and the Lady looked like such a fine and noble couple. She seemed so nice and he seemed so good. But, appearances don’t tell the whole story. When kindness doesn’t seem “manly”, and when honesty doesn’t seem “womanly”, perhaps we have gone beyond what “becomes” a man or woman.