As Shakespeare’s tragic tale of ambition unfolds, the two central characters, Lady Macbeth and the title character Macbeth, undergo a dramatic shift of dominance in their relationship. In the beginning of the play the couple act as a team, plotting the death of Duncan to further their mutual bloodthirsty ambition. Lady Macbeth soon shows her power over Macbeth when she questions her husband’s manhood and devotion to her when he gets cold feet. As Macbeth’s confidence slowly grows and the witches proclaim positive futures for him he begins to separate himself from his wife, planning Banquo’s assassination without telling her, and no longer being susceptible to her insults. By the end of the play the roles have completely switched and Lady Macbeth spirals into guilt-fueled insanity as Macbeth prepares to battle to keep his throne. This essay will explore the relationship between Macbeth and his wife, paying particular attention to the scenes previously mentioned.
The first interaction between Macbeth and his wife comes in the form of a letter. He writes to Lady Macbeth, telling her about the prophecies he received from three witches. He explains that these prophecies proclaim Macbeth will become King. He writes;
This have I thought good to deliver thee,
my dearest partner of greatness,
that thou mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing,
by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. (1.5.10-13)
He refers to his wife as ‘my dearest partner of greatness’, signifying his deep love and admiration for her. Knowing his wife would like the idea of him becoming King, which would bring with the title much power and wealth, Macbeth offers the prophecy to her like a gift. When Lady Macbeth reads the letter she does not display the same excitement that her husband does, claiming that he is "too full o' the milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way." (1.5.17-18) Lady Macbeth believes her husband will not be brave or man enough to do what she thinks is necessary to see the prophecies come true. As soon as she receives the letter her mind immediately turns to the benefits of becoming Queen. She makes it clear she is willing to commit murder to see her ambition realized. Holding the letter and speaking to Macbeth, although he has no arrived back to their home yet, she says;
Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;
And chastise with the valour of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round, (1.5.25-28)
She believes she will enable him to reach his full potential by ‘chastising’ him, causing Macbeth to become ashamed of the ‘weak’ aspects of himself. These weak aspects would prevent him from being able to kill Duncan, and would not allow him to become King, and further, prevent Lady Macbeth from reaching the status of Queen.
Macbeth, like Lady Macbeth, also thinks that killing Duncan would be the only way his goals can be achieved. When he arrives home he is greeted by his excited wife,...