An important factor in Shakespeare’s tragic play, Macbeth is the changing relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth throughout the play. At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth is the dominant character in the relationship. As the play progresses the roles seem to reverse and Macbeth becomes the more dominant of the two. We can gain insight into the changing relationship by looking at the interaction of the couple.
The first time in the play where we can make reference about their relationship and their individual personalities in the relationship is in Act 1, Scene 5, where we first meet Lady Macbeth. She is seen alone reading a letter out loud, which Macbeth has written to her. It is telling her of his visit from the witches. The letter told how the weird sisters had come to him and Banquo on their way home after battle and how they also made it appear to him as though they could read his thoughts and how they tormented him with riddles. They showed him that they had the power of prophecy and they said that he would become the Thane of Cawdor and then king. They made him believe that his greatest prize, being king, was near and Macbeth who was already experiencing the desire to be king willingly listened to the witches.
Lady Macbeth desperately wanted to become queen and when the king made Macbeth the Thane of Cawdor they both thought the weird sisters must be right and he would become king.
When the question was vaguely brought up of killing Duncan to get the throne Lady Macbeth worked on this idea and in her eyes it seemed to be a good idea. Lady Macbeth then went about trying to persuade Macbeth into killing Duncan even though he clearly didn’t want to. …
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Hugget, Richard. Supernatural on Stage: The Curse of Macbeth: Its Origins, Background, and History. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co, 1975. 153-211.
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Quincey, Thomas De essay from Harris, Laurie Lanzen, and Scott, Mark W. ed. “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Shakespearean Criticism, Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986.
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Traversi, D. A. essay from Harris, Laurie Lanzen, and Scott, Mark W. ed. “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Shakespearean Criticism, Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986.
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Comparing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
A Comparison of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
To understand Shakespeare’s tragic play, Macbeth it is necessary to fully comprehend the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The differences between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are profound. Over the course of the play, Shakespeare skillfully changes the role of the two characters. Macbeth is frightened at the beginning then confident at the end while Lady Macbeth confident at the beginning and frightened at the end.
At the beginning of the play King Duncan hears of Macbeth, the bloody hero. The battle was horrific, but Macbeth was fearless, fighting his way through the enemy and literally cutting the rebel leader in half. King Duncan is suitably impressed by Macbeth’s braveness.
“O valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!”
The audience’s initial perception of Lady Macbeth is of a confident and evil woman. In her first scene she is reading a letter from her husband telling her about the witch’s predictions. Upon reading the letter she instantly decides to obtain the crown for Macbeth through any possible means.
“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promised.”
It is these two bold and sure views of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth that are soon to change. Lady Macbeth forces Macbeth to murder Duncan and when he first refuses, she appeals to his manhood and courage.
“When you durst do it, then you were a man”
Macbeth eventually gives in with the proposition of being king being too powerful a lure for him. At this stage the audience can deduce that Macbeth is easily subject to persuasion while Lady Macbeth is very persuasive. As the fateful day draws near, Macbeth becomes delusional, picturing visions of blood stained daggers, witches and ghosts. Kill…
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…n Women Reading Shakespeare 1660-1900. Ann Thompson and Sasha Roberts, eds. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1997.
Kings and Queens of Scotland Eileen Dunlop