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How does the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth change throughout the play?

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Introduction

How does the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth change throughout the play? In the early stages of the play, the Macbeths seem to be a devoted couple. Their love and concern for each other remains strong and constant throughout the play, but their relationship changes dramatically following the murder of King Duncan in Act 2. The Macbeths' relationship is presented in very strong terms in Act 1 by virtue of their sense of togetherness and resolve when separated by war and when placed under enormous pressure and temptation by the Witches' prophesies. Macbeth's initial reaction to the prophesy of his future kingship in Act 1, scene 3, is skepticism and disbelief: "Say from whence/You owe this strange intelligence? or why/Upon this blasted heath you stop our way/With such prophetic greeting?", but this changes to amazement and wonder when he hears from Ross about his promotion to the Thane of Cawdor, in the same scene, and he immediately thinks about using bloody means to become king: "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,/Shakes so my single state of man", but as this quotation also shows, he is afraid of its treasonable implications. His devotion to Lady Macbeth is immediately apparent in Act 1, scene 5, when he writes her a letter in strictest confidence informing her about the prophesies, although there is a note of inferiority and intimidation, and a sense of duty in his comments: "This have I thought good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness". ...read more.

Middle

Go get some water, And wash this filthy witness from your hand. They perform their roles of Thane and Lady, husband and wife, host and hostess perfectly, maintaining the pretence of innocence: "Woe, alas!/What, in our house?" and "The expedition my violent love/Outrun the pauser, reason". However, the murder of Duncan marks the point where their relationship undergoes a shift: she is not as ruthless as she suggests (she could not kill the king) and he is not "full o' the milk of human kindness" as she originally thought. She has unleashed the killer in him and as soon as Macbeth is crowned King, she no longer has power to control him; it is noticeable that she faints in Act 2, scene 3 the moment that her husband confesses to murdering the king's guards - this was not part of Lady Macbeth's plan. Once he becomes king, Macbeth seizes the initiative and makes his own plots against his rivals, Banquo and Macduff, without involving Lady Macbeth: "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,/Till thou applaud the deed." However, his language and tone towards his wife appears affectionate and caring. His protectiveness reveals a strong commitment to their relationship. Their private thoughts also reveal their commitment to each other; they both focus on the need for security and stability: "Nought's had, all's spent,/Where our desire is got without content" (Lady Macbeth) ...read more.

Conclusion

Upon receiving the news of his wife's death, Macbeth initially seems unaffected and matter of fact: "She should have died hereafter;/There would have been a time for such a word." However, the dejected tone of the remainder of this speech would suggest that he is deeply affected, feeling lost and aimless: To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. The dreariness of the alliteration and repetition, the fragility of the candle imagery and the futility of the acting imagery all suggest that Macbeth's psyche cannot cope without his wife and his queen. Life holds no future or purpose for him, now she is dead. After their deaths, their relationship is portrayed by Malcolm as "this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen", forever united in evil. He began as a noble captain and ended as a bloody tyrant; she began as a devoted (some might say doting) wife, but ended up a guilt-ridden suicide. Their love remained until the end and their relationship, although subject to change and separation, remained firm. GCSE English and English Literature Macbeth Model essay 1 ...read more.

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