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The Balance of Power between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

For this essay, I will analyse the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth throughout Macbeth by William Shakespeare. I will be concentrating on the balance of power between both characters. I will be showing how Macbeth’s power is lost in the middle of the play, where Lady Macbeth’s power comes to life. When Lady Macbeth’s power is lost, she commits suicide, but as Macbeth’s power grows, he becomes arrogant and is killed whilst in battle.

At the beginning of the play, Macbeth seems very strong. This is because he had just won in battle, defeating the Norwegians. Whilst Macbeth is returning from battle with Banquo; he significantly meets the three witches. He is more powerful in life as he has the title Thane of Glamis, yet he is the weaker partner to begin in the relationship. When the witches meet Macbeth, it is significant as he is on a high because he has just won the battle and feels very powerful. He feels confident, and he believes in himself. They say, “For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name.” This shows what people think of him.

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Once Macbeth and Banquo first arrive, the witches hail him and also then hail Banquo. The first witch says, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!” then the second witch says, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!” then the third witch says, “All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be King hereafter.” Macbeth is confused by these phrases, but I think that they’re predicting the future. He then questions them by saying, “Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more: By Sinel’s death I know I am the Thane of Glamis; But how of Cawdor?”

This phrase shows that he wants to hear good things about the future. Although by the time he has said this, the witches have vanished. This leaves him pondering on his thoughts of what the witches said. He then starts to predict things for himself. He immediately writes home to his wife and addresses her as “My dearest partner of greatness” This shows that their relationship is equal, and he doesn’t assume that he is more significant than her as many men of that age did. This quote plays a significant role in the play as it predicts how Lady Macbeth’s character will turn out. It shows that the relationship and how they talk to each other will be different from the stereotypical couple in these times.

The first mention of Lady Macbeth in the play is when Macbeth writes her a letter. He addresses her as “My dearest partner of greatness”. This then suggests to the audience that she plays an essential part in the play. After reading her husbands’ letter, she says, ” Yet I do fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.” She means that her husband is too kind to act evilly. She then decides to take things into her own hands and calls upon the evil spirits. She wants to be strong “take away my feminine nature and fill with the greatest cruelty of tension, make my blood strong, make my heart stop beating so I will feel no emotion or remorse.”

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The stereotypical woman of the times obeys her husband and does whatever he wants her to do. Also, she would be quiet and with shallow confidence. Lady Macbeth is different to the stereotypical woman of the times. She is very independent and confident. Although she hasn’t the same amount of evil as the witches, she does have an evil view of things. When Macbeth returns home from battle, he has told Lady Macbeth that Duncan is coming to stay. We see the true evilness as she conjures up a plan to kill Duncan and persuades Macbeth to do it. She says to Macbeth, “but this night’s great business into my dispatch.”

This shows that she plans to kill Duncan, and as in this part of the play, she is the stronger character. Macbeth does what Lady Macbeth tells him. She shows that if he does the murder, she will take care of all else by saying, “To alter favour ever is to fear. Leave all the rest to me.” Whereas at the start of the play, you see that Macbeth is the almighty powerful character, it shows that he is not in his relationship with Lady Macbeth. She manipulates him, making him think that although it isn’t right to kill Duncan, it’s best for him in the long run. She says to him. Look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t,” which suggests that he must lie and be deceitful about what has happened.

In Act1 Scene 7, Macbeth has doubts in his mind about whether to act out this murder. He says that it will be over and done with if he does it as soon as possible. “If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well It was done quickly”, which shows that the plans are playing on his mind. Then later, he says, “We will proceed no further in this business: He hath honoured me of late” this shows that he wants to remain loyal to his King. Duncan has given him many opportunities, such as making him Thane of Glamis then Thane of Cawdor. While speaking to his wife, he says, ” I dare do all that may become a man.”

This shows that he wants to prove himself to his wife, as she believes that he doesn’t dare to kill him. When he says this, she plays along and says, ” When you durst do it, then you were a man!” I think that this makes him more determined to do it to show that he’s a man. This then shows that she can manipulate him. As the play was written in King James 1st, the audience would have been shocked by the determination and attitude towards the murder. As she says to Macbeth, “How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, And the dash is the brains out, had I sworn as you.”

She says this to prove to Macbeth that she had the courage, so why hasn’t he? The more comments that she had made and the stronger she got, the more horrified the audience would be due to the nature of this woman. This is what makes her so different to the stereotypical woman of the times. Another thing that she had done to show that she was more powerful in the relationship was stopping her husband from speaking. He says, “If we should fail-” and she breaks him by saying, “But screw your courage to the sticking-place.” Also, in these times, a woman would not even consider killing her husband, let alone the king. These must-haves left women are feeling outraged as she gave a bad name to women.

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After Macbeth has been crowned King, he has a Banquet. Here Banquo says, “Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all, As the weird women promis’d.” This shows that Banquo did not forget the predictions that the witches had made. Macbeth also takes note of this as one of their predictions was of Banquo’s children becoming King after Macbeth. Macbeth feels that this must not happen and arranges an assassin to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. He does this behind Lady Macbeth’s back, which shows that they are no longer a united pair. They are individuals. After murdering Banquo, Macbeth sees images of Banquo’s ghost.

This shows that he is going insane. Whilst he is at a Banquet, he sees Banquo’s ghost. He starts shouting aloud, ” Thou canst not say I did it: never shake Thy gory locks at me.” He says this, as he did not kill Banquo with his bare hands. He arranged for it to happen. Therefore he believes that no one can blame him for Banquo’s death. He persuades himself that the killing was not necessary. He says, “to be thus is nothing, But being safely thus.” It means that he is safe from being accused of Banquo’s murder, as he never did it himself. This shows that he is becoming more tolerant of murdering people. As he is going insane, so is his wife. She is getting weaker as the play goes on.

In Act 5, the relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth takes a whole new turn. Lady Macbeth becomes insane. She began when she told Macbeth that she couldn’t kill Duncan as he looked like her father too much. After the murder, she began to sleepwalk, and by Act 5, she would sleepwalk and try to wash the blood off her hands. She becomes obsessed with this and scrubs her hands whilst there is nothing there. This is entirely different for a few moments after Duncan’s murder as she says to her husband, “A little water clears us of this deed.” So whilst her sanity is deteriorating, Macbeth’s sanity is improving.

Macbeth is reaching his peak of evilness by killing Macduff’s wife and child. He kills them because he has revisited the witches to make sure that he is safe. They say to fear Macduff; therefore, he sends him a warning that he is unbeatable by killing Macduff’s wife and child. Towards the end of the play, Macbeth has grown ever more confidant and goes to the witches again to ensure that no one can destroy him. They reassure him and say, that “None of woman born shall harm thee.” Therefore he feels that he will be fine as all men are born from women. He then walks around instructing people to do things that he would never do if he weren’t sure he would stay alive. However, he stays confident whilst the Wood Of Durham approaches to attack.

At the end of the play, the roles have completely reversed from the beginning. Both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth die, although one from suicide and the other from battle. Lady Macbeth is a strong character at the beginning of the play, but since killing Duncan, she has become insane and weak. She then takes her life. However, Macbeth is still as confident when Macduff comes with Burnham Wood and attacks his castle. But what Macbeth doesn’t know is that Macduff was born by caesarean. So, while he remains ever confident, he says that no man shalt hurt him born from women. Macduff then tells him that he was born by caesarean. Macbeth then gives up, and Macduff severs his head.

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Throughout the play, we see a difference in power for both characters. The play begins with Macbeth as a powerful, mighty Thane. He is ambitious and one of the leaders of Duncan’s army. However, once he defeats the Norwegians, he moves from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor, which shows that he can be king. Although, when he writes home to his wife, he refers to her as “my dearest partner of greatness”, which gives you the impression that she is treated equally in their relationship.

When he arrives home, though, the actual relationship is revealed. She has control over her husband and manipulates him to do things that she wants. Lady Macbeth is a dominant and strong character in the play; she is more ambitious than her husband and has no morals. Although it is Macbeth that murders Duncan, it is Lady Macbeth that arranges the whole scheme. This shows that the role of power has shifted to make Lady Macbeth look the greater out of the two.

The murder of Duncan has tested both characters’ insanity. Macbeth hires two murderers to kill his friend Banquo. After that, he becomes even more insane. He begins to see the ghost of Banquo. In the middle of dinner, he begins to shout at the ghost. After that, Lady Macbeth also starts seeing things. She sees blood on her hands and tries to wash it off whilst she is sleepwalking. These are her dreams. As Lady Macbeth’s sanity is deteriorating, Macbeth is making the most of the fact that he is King.

He is murdering people without a care in the world. However, he grows more and more confident, and in the end, he dies from his gullibility. The audience expects to see both characters die as they were evil and committed treason. Treason was a painful thing in those days, and they had to be brought to justice, especially if they had done wrong to a king, as kings were highly thought of. If anyone had done wrong against them, they deserved to die. The two protagonists abuse of power ultimately led to their deaths.

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The Balance of Power between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. (2021, Sep 24). Retrieved May 27, 2022, from