How do the characters of Lady Macbeth and Napoleon change in ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Animal Farm’?

Published: 2021-06-30 09:30:05
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The two texts ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell and ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare both witness change in their characters and ideas. Both Lady Macbeth and Napoleon, two key characters in both of the texts, begin as egotistical, greedy and avaricious. Driven by their cupidity and lust for leadership and power, both characters seek change, but change in very different ways. In this essay, I will be analysing why both the characters seek to change themselves and how they change.
I will also examine the psychological effects of a fake public person, the change in the characters’ language and the unnatural elements of their change and their historical and social connotations. Firstly, why do the characters of Lady Macbeth and Napoleon desire change? Both of the characters begin in relatively similar positions of power in their respective hierarchies, Lady Macbeth as the wife of a thane and Napoleon as a pig (therefore ‘naturally’ reasonably high in the social status of the farm).
One common factor of Napoleon’s and Lady Macbeth’s personalities is their overwhelming ambition, but their other causes for change differ. Lady Macbeth desires the crown above all else, and wishes to escape the constraints of the sexual prejudices of the Jacobean era and to command a country, not just her husband Macbeth. Evidence of her avarice for power is made evident very soon after her introduction, when she calls upon the Devil: ‘”Unsex me here… Come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall”’.
Lady Macbeth is asking to be ‘unsexed’, stripped of all her female qualities, and the fact she relies upon the Devil to incite masculinity upon her signifies her consuming passion for power. ‘Milk’ is also a giver of life, what a child is fed with and nurtured with when they are young, and Lady Macbeth is asking for hers to be replaced with ‘gall’, a poison, so that the loving qualities of her self, such as the ability to raise a child, are thwarted and poisoned with evil.
Lady Macbeth desires this change so that she can become the leader she believes her husband, who is ‘”too full o’th’milk of human kindness”’, can never be. Napoleon, on the other hand, does not face the problem of discrimination amongst the other animals; he changes solely to rule in an attempt to quench his insatiable greed, and for the sake of monopoly over the farm and the other animals. Orwell does not supply us with the kind of evidence as Shakespeare does of Napoleon’s drive and desire for change, as ‘Animal Farm’ is told from a narrator’s perspective with no soliloquies about the characters’ nature as
in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, but Napoleon’s theft of the fresh cow milk and his adoption of the dogs for their ‘education’ are good early indicators of Napoleon’s will for change and power. Lady Macbeth and Napoleon both pursue change through differing, and at times unnatural, means. Lady Macbeth begins her change, and her gradual descent into madness, after she partakes in the murder of King Duncan and becomes a regicide and looks towards the paranormal for the characteristics she must exemplify. Lady Macbeth is maliciously decisive in her plans to murder the King.
She describes the entrance of Duncan under her battlements as ‘fatal’, and the highest treason is committed under her battlements by her wish that night. Murder changes people’s perceptions of the world, and Lady Macbeth is no different, almost immediately after the killing of Duncan, Lady Macbeth shows her first signs of weakness. She is paranoid about whether or not Macbeth actually carried out the deed, and she herself did not carry out the regicide, hinting at a human conscience and guilt hindering her: ‘”Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t”’.
Lady Macbeth also wishes to change herself into a ‘perfect leader’ by making herself supposedly incapable of feeling regret, sympathy or empathy, by looking to Hell. ‘”Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts… Fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty”’. The fact Lady Macbeth refers to her head as a ‘crown’ signifies how she is undergoing this change for the purpose of attaining power. Shakespeare’s use of imperatives for Lady Macbeth’s speech, such as demanding the paranormal to ‘come’, highlights the commanding overtones of her language and personality early on in the play.
She is also asking to be ‘filled’ with the ‘direst cruelty’, immersed completely in malevolence so that she can change herself into strong leader. Napoleon is a very capricious character, changing his opinions and ideas on a whim for his own benefit. He is disinterested in the welfare of Animal Farm and its inhabitants, Napoleon only changes history, uses Squealer to enhance his own public persona with fictitious tales of heroism, and perverts the ideology of Animalism to assist the pigs and himself in their course of atrocities for total dictatorship.
An example of this is when Napoleon uses Snowball as a scapegoat to avoid admitting to his own failures. When their windmill falls prey to violent weather as a result of Napoleon’s poor planning of how strong the windmill should be, Napoleon incriminates Snowball, escaping the blame himself. ‘“Do you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our windmill? SNOWBALL! ” he suddenly roared in a voice of thunder’.
Napoleon terrifies the other animals, with his menace and his physicality as a ‘large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar’, and roaring ‘in a voice of thunder’ strikes fear into the animals, fear that forces them into the belief that Snowball is a traitor and an enemy. Lord Acton once stated that ‘Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Napoleon is corrupted by an unfaltering greed from the beginning, and his fundamental nature and megalomania do not change throughout the novella.
Napoleon only changes to become a more detestable and powerful character, and evolve the same dictatorial character as Jones, arguably worse. Napoleon’s ‘absolute corruption’ occurs when he adopts human-like qualities, and changes to become a man. The language of both Lady Macbeth and Napoleon changes throughout ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Animal Farm’, but the importance of language to them changes in opposite directions. Shakespeare began with Lady Macbeth speaking in a poetic but aggressive and demanding fashion, using lots of imagery and similes to convey her points.
It is through language and the power of persuasion that Lady Macbeth usurps power, coaxing Macbeth into the murder of Duncan. When formulating a plan to encourage Macbeth to seize the ‘golden round’, Lady Macbeth states that she will ‘“chastise (Macbeth) with the valour of (her) tongue”’. To ‘chastise’ means to berate, as Lady Macbeth often does with Macbeth, questioning his masculinity (‘“Are you a man? ”’). The use of the adjective ‘valour’ to describe her tongue suggests that her language is courageous, courageous in the battle to convince Macbeth to subside to his ambition and commit regicide.
It is a battle Lady Macbeth wins. Initially, Lady Macbeth commands eloquence and enticing speech. Near the start of the play, she is criticising Macbeth’s manhood once more over the impedance of his conscience in keeping to an agreement to kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth uses graphic imagery to try and instil envy in Macbeth of her lack remorse: ‘“How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me, I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck’s my nipple from his boneless gums and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn”’.
The contrasting nature of this quote, starting with an image of new life and love in a baby feeding from a mother and finishing with a violent scene of wicked murder, strikes not only surprise but fear in the reader and most likely Macbeth. Phrases such as ‘boneless gums’ denature into something gruesome and powerful, and is a use of imagery, contorting the appearance of boneless gums in the reader’s mind into something disturbing.
Lady Macbeth’s ability to frighten and disturb a listener with her speech signifies how powerful her language is at the start of the play, but her language dwindles and changes in its power as her guilt pulls her into insanity. In the last brief scene Lady Macbeth is exposed to the audience, she has lost all of the attractive and powerful qualities of her speech. For example, unaware of the presence of a doctor and a nurse in her room, Lady Macbeth exclaims: ‘“To bed, to bed: there’s knocking at the gate.
Come, come, come, come… to bed, to bed, to bed”’. Her language is littered with punctuation, such as commas, colons and repetition, and it makes her lines jagged, mostly monosyllabic and almost incoherent. Structurally, Lady Macbeth also speaks only in sentences by the end of the play (as do the doctor and the nurse), and this is contrary to the poetic stanzas she boasted at the start of the play. This indicates her change from somebody articulate, intelligent and eloquent into a person who is guilt-ridden and consumed by her conscience.
Lady Macbeth loses all her power in language as she changes and falls from grace. In comparison to Lady Macbeth, Napoleon’s power through the use of language changes only for the better of his tyrannical regime. A lot of the security of Napoleon’s position at the helm of Animal Farm is due to the propagating of his fellow pig Squealer. Although it is Squealer’s language, the power-driven opportunities it provides for Napoleon change and widen as his command over the animals through Squealer’s speech expands.
It is made apparent from as early as Chapter 2 that Squealer will be a useful tool for consolidating power, described as a ‘brilliant talker’ and that he can turn ‘black into white’ with his words, as he often does by excusing the pigs’ ‘black’ desires with allegedly rational justification for them. The powers of persuasion are as useful to Squealer and Napoleon as it is to Lady Macbeth at the start of both texts, however persuasion is essential to Napoleon’s rule even at the end of the novella.
Squealer’s speeches often entail lots of persuasive devices, as exemplified by his response to disapproval of the other animals of the pigs taking all of the milk and apples. ‘“You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? ”’ Squealer uses rhetorical questions many times in his speeches, and his choice of words, such as ‘I hope’, attempts to instil guilt in the animals for even suggesting that the pigs were acting out of ‘selfishness and privilege’.
Squealer uses evidence and ‘figures’ to support points, and the imposing threat of the return of Mr Jones to exploit the animal’s docility and lack of intelligence even at the end of the novella, as Orwell indicates by stating the ‘animals believed every word’. Napoleon and Squealer retain their abilities of persuasion and power over the farm after their change into human beings, but Lady Macbeth’s persuasive language deserts her.
Napoleon himself tricked the inhabitants of Animal Farm into thinking that Animal Farm was still what the animals had rebelled for and dreamed of through language, by addressing the other animals as ‘Comrades’, suggesting equality and companionship (‘No creature called any other animal ‘Master’. All animals were equal. ’), when in fact Animal Farm emulates the exact opposite of equality. Napoleon changes his approach to using the word ‘Comrade’, stating in the final chapter that addressing others as comrades ‘was to be suppressed’.
The abolition of the term symbolises the change on Animal Farm. By the end of the novella, Napoleon is too powerful for the animals; they do not threaten his position on the throne, and language is no longer needed to brainwash ‘The Manor Farm’ any more. In truth, though, language is not needed at all by Napoleon. Napoleon rules Animal Farm through terror and petrifies every animal under his reign. He is introduced, as mentioned previously, as a ‘large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar’, and Napoleon’s brooding presence and psychopathic traits add weight to his frightening nature.
The only aspect of the animals’ obvious terror in the face of Napoleon that changes is that it becomes more apparent. Napoleon commands ‘huge dogs’ and attends public executions, where ‘traitors’ are forced into admitting false crimes to have the dogs ‘promptly (tear) their throats out’. Napoleon’s use of fear tactics does not change, nor does his lack of speech, and he forces the farm into submission towards the change of Animalism he spearheads on Animal Farm as it reverts back to ‘The Manor Farm’.
While Lady Macbeth is punished for her sins, Napoleon goes on unscathed in his attainment of absolute power. Napoleon commits atrocities, murders other innocent animals and morphs into a human being, perverting every rule of Animalism. Napoleon even commits arguably the greatest sin and becomes an almost God-like figure on Animal Farm, as shown by the poem ‘Comrade Napoleon’ (Napoleon’s Omniscience and Omni-benevolence suggested by the quote ‘Thou watchest over all’. His Omnipotence is also proposed at when Napoleon is referred to as the ‘sun’, the giver of all life, like God).
The lack of divine retribution or change in Napoleon’s sanity or mentality hints at the fact there is no God in Animal Farm, there is no justice for the wicked. This could be referred to when Orwell wrote his novella. Napoleon is the manifestation of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin as a pig in ‘Animal Farm’, and Stalin managed to build a global superpower with Soviet Russia at the time when Orwell was writing through the murder of millions of his own people. Stalin never truly suffered an end that compensated for the heinous crimes he committed, and neither does Napoleon.

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