One topic that features heavily on Macbeth essays and exams is the character and role of Lady Macbeth. Most likely, you’ll be asked to decide if Lady Macbeth is evil, controlling, manipulative, or whether you feel she was responsible for King Duncan’s death.
Remember that there are no right or wrong answers here. You might think Lady Macbeth is evil or you might not. The point is, whatever you believe, you MUST use quotes from the play to support your answer.
So let’s take a look at Lady Macbeth’s first appearance in the play (Act I, Scene V) and look for evidence of her evil nature.
“Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way.”
In this quote, Lady Macbeth has heard about the prophecy that Macbeth will become king. The problem is, she knows that Macbeth is naturally a good, kind person (“too full o’ the’ milk of human kindness) to actually take the throne from Duncan by force. Shakespeare is suggesting here that Lady Macbeth is not like Macbeth, she, perhaps, doesn’t have any of this milk of human kindness.
“Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear
And chastise with the valor of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round.”
This quote doesn’t make Lady Macbeth look good at all. She’s saying that she has the necessary evil qualities (“my spirits”) that Macbeth needs to make himself king. Moreover, she’s more than happy to share them with Macbeth (“pour my spirits in thine ear”).
So, Act I, Scene V provides a couple of examples of Lady Macbeth’s evil nature. To add to this body of evidence, Lady Macbeth also goes on to make a number of preparations for Duncan’s murder. She makes sure that Duncan’s servants are drunk, for example, and that Macbeth has easy access to the murder weapon.
However, this quote from Act II, Scene II suggests that Lady Macbeth might not be as evil as we first thought:
“Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done ’t.”
In this quote, Lady Macbeth is saying that she would have happily murdered Duncan herself, however, he looked an awful lot like her father as he lay sleeping. If she was truly evil, would this image of her father really have stopped her?
Again, there are no right or wrong answers here. It is up to you make your own decision and to use quotes to support it.
For more Lady Macbeth quotes and analysis, check out our study guide here.