Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s wife, is a cold-blooded, ambitious woman who covets power and position. It is the reason why she is one of Shakespeare’s most famous female characters. When she is introduced in the play, she comes across as stronger and more ruthless than Macbeth. As Macbeth informs her of the witches’ prophecies that he is the future King, she sets her sights on that goal and is willing to pursue the goal with great determination. When we first see her, she is already plotting Duncan’s murder. She seems fully aware of Macbeth’s wavering and knows that she will have to push Macbeth into committing the murder. At one point, she wishes that she were not a woman so that she could kill the King herself. In Act 1 Scene 5, she says “Come you spirits, that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty.” She represents a conflict between femininity and masculinity as she doesn’t show compassion or nurturing traits, which are associated with femininity; but rather she displays ambition, ruthlessness and a focused pursuit of power, which tend to be viewed as more masculine. Lady Macbeth is willing to do whatever it takes to get the throne. Lady Macbeth is the driving force and knows she needs to urge Macbeth to carry out her plan. Lady Macbeth effectively manipulates her husband when he hesitates to murder Duncan. She chastises him and questions his manhood until he feels that he must commit murder to prove himself. She displays incredible strength throughout the plot of murdering the King. She is the one who drugs the King’s attendants. She calms Macbeth’s nerves after the killing takes place. When Macbeth brings in the daggers from the King’s room, Lady Macbeth tells him to bring them back. When he refuses, she returns them and smears blood on the drugged attendants. She remains cold-hearted throughout the plot of killing the King. This coldness doesn’t remain as guilt and regret begin to get to Lady Macbeth. Just as she was more ambitious than Macbeth in doing what she deemed necessary to secure the throne, she became more guilt-ridden than Macbeth over their actions. This led her on a descent into madness. This is true when she is sleepwalking and says “out, dammed spot; out”. Just as Macbeth thought his hands were bloodstained forever earlier in the play; she too is seeing blood as the guilt is becoming overwhelming. By the end of the play, she has been reduced to sleepwalking through the castle, desperately trying to wash away an invisible bloodstain. Madness is taking hold and she is unable to cope. She succumbs to her feelings of guilt and regret and commits suicide.
Analysis by Brendan Blees