Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth

by

Susan King

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Lady Sybilla Character Analysis

Duncan’s wife, mother of Malcolm mac Duncan and Donald Bán. Although their husbands become enemies, Lady Sybilla and Gruadh are close friends. Lady Sybilla asks Gruadh to promise to care for her children if anything happens to her. Lady Sybilla dies in childbirth not long before Macbeth kills Duncan, orphaning their two sons. Gruadh never mentions her promise to her husband, but after Duncan dies Gruadh passionately defends his and Lady Sybilla’s children, and convinces Macbeth to let them live.

Lady Sybilla Quotes in Lady Macbeth

The Lady Macbeth quotes below are all either spoken by Lady Sybilla or refer to Lady Sybilla . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History, Memory, and Storytelling  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Three Rivers Press edition of Lady Macbeth published in 2008.
Chapter 9  Quotes

At one point, King Malcolm himself carried his great-grandson and held him out to King Cnut. The prince, at two years old a sturdy handful, set up a lusty caterwauling, so that both men looked annoyed. Still, the message was clear: young Malcolm mac Duncan of Scotland had made a symbolic homage to the ruler of England.

And it was clear to those watching that in making his great-grandson pledge to England, old Malcolm was declaring that his line, grandson to son, would be kings hereafter. […]

The child’s mother, Lady Sybilla, stepped forward to take her boy from her father-by-law. I was among the retinue of women who walked with her, and she turned to give the squalling child to me. He struggled to get down, and I set him on his feet, taking his hand. He pulled me along rather like a ram dragging its shepherd. Others were amused, but I felt a strange sense, like a weight on my shoulders, on my soul.

And then, with a shudder, I knew it for an omen of the future—myself, and all of us gathered that day were linked to this moment as if by the tug of a heavy chain.

Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 31 Quotes

Watching the prow of the boat surge through lapping waves, I knew that I had protected Malcolm from retaliation. By honoring my promise to his mother and following my own heart as a mother, I had prevented his murder as a boy. And he had returned, just as the mormaers had warned. I had brought this tragedy about.

But if that chance came again, I could not order the deaths of children. A devil’s bargain, that, to choose sin or grief. Closing my eyes, I rested my face in my hands and struggled, overcame a weeping urge. What I had done had been most rightful, though it came with a hard price. It was the way of things.

Page Number: 324
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lady Sybilla Character Timeline in Lady Macbeth

The timeline below shows where the character Lady Sybilla appears in Lady Macbeth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9 
Gender Roles  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
That evening Gruadh talks to Lady Sybilla, wife of Duncan mac Crinan, who has two young sons, Malcolm mac Duncan and Donald... (full context)
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Lady Sybilla takes her child from King Malcolm and gives young Malcolm mac Duncan to Gruadh to... (full context)
Chapter 22 
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
...Iona. Macbeth goes with the escort, but Gruadh remains at Dunsinnan. Gruadh reflects on Lady Sybilla, who is “effectively queen,” although because she is Saxon can never be a fully Celtic... (full context)
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Gruadh and Lady Sybilla spend a lot of time together while their husbands are away. The morning Gruadh is... (full context)
Chapter 24
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Later in the year, Gruadh is upset to hear Lady Sybilla died in childbirth. She remembers her promise to watch over her children Malcolm mac Duncan... (full context)
Chapter 28 
Gender Roles  Theme Icon
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
...warriors who will return and challenge Macbeth’s title. Gruadh thinks of her promise to Lady Sybilla and her own pregnancy. She leaves the room to bring in Lulach. She points out... (full context)
Chapter 31
Gender Roles  Theme Icon
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
...the lives of Malcolm mac Duncan and Donald Bán, both because of her promise to Sybilla and her instincts as a mother. She understands that she indirectly led to the death... (full context)