The female roles in William Shakespeare's Macbeth are those of the witches, more supernatural than human, Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff, the latter being presented in a minor, almost insignificant way. This paper will explore the role of Lady Macbeth and only make slight comment on the witches.
Fanny Kemble in "Lady Macbeth" finds that the main female role could have ended in madness due to the evil tendencies of the lady:
Lady Macbeth, even in her sleep, has no qualms of conscience; her remorse takes none of the tenderer forms akin to repentance, nor the weaker ones allied to fear, from the pursuit of which the tortured soul, seeking where to hide itself, not seldom escapes into the boundless wilderness of madness. (116-17)
In "Memoranda: Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth," Sarah Siddons comments on how the feminine role of the leading lady is not a typical one as regards attitude:
[Macbeth] announces the King's approach; and she, insensible it should seem to all the perils which he has encountered in battle, and to all the happiness of his safe return to her, -- for not one kind word of greeting or congratulations does she offer, -- is so entirely swallowed up by the horrible design, which has probably been suggested to her by his letters, as to have forgotten both the one and the other. (56)
Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare contradict the impression that Lady Macbeth is all strength:
[. . .] she cannot strike the sleeping king who resembles her father. Having sustained her weaker husband, her own strength gives way; and in sleep, when her will cannot control her thoughts, she is piteously afflicted by the memory of one stain of blood upon her little hand. (792)
In "Macbeth as the Imitation of an Action" Francis Fergusson enlightens the reader concerning the fears weakening Lady Macbeth:
If you think over these scenes, you will notice that the Macbeths understand the action which begins here as a competition and a stunt, against reason and against nature. Lady Macbeth fears her husband's human nature, as well as her own female nature, and therefore she fears the light of reason and the common daylight world. (108)
The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning and three witches, more supernatural forces than women, who are anticipating their meeting with Macbeth. Macbeth is greeted with "hail to thee, thane of Glamis," "thane of Cawdor," and "thou shalt be king hereafter!" When Ross and Angus arrive with news of Duncan's reward ("He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor"), it is logical for Macbeth to assume that all of the weird sisters' prophecies will come true.
At Inverness in Macbeth's castle, his lady warns: "The raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements." She plots murder like a heartless man.
Duncan's visit to Inverness, a...