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Is Lady Macbeth the driving force behind the murder of Duncan?

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Is Lady Macbeth the driving force behind the murder of Duncan? Macbeth is a very complex character and has a number of influences on him in the first part of the play. The most important are the witches, Lady Macbeth, and his own ambition. Whether or not any of these is powerful enough to be called a "driving force" is debatable. The scene where Macbeth meets the witches is one of great significance, as it seems that this is where everything begins. It is interesting that the first words that Macbeth says in this scene echo the witches "So foul and fair a day I have not seen." This gives rise to the suspicion that there is the seed of evil in Macbeth already and it is there before he meets the witches. The witches themselves clearly have more of an effect on Macbeth than on Banquo, he starts when they say that he will be king. This suggests that he was already thinking about the possibility, or had done in the past. The fact that Macbeth learns that he has become the Thane of Cawdor immediately after hearing the prophecy strengthens his feelings on the witches, "Two truths are told as happy prologues to the swelling act" Macbeth is already starting to think of murder now, although the witches made no mention of it. ...read more.


The last two lines are a rhyming couplet, suggesting that this is at least partly a spell, which would again mean that Macbeth has a connection to evil. Lady Macbeth seems to want to bet the driving force behind the murder when she is introduced to the audience. Her speech seems to refute the allegations that Macbeth is too ambitious and straying towards evil, as she says he is too kind. She clarifies that he is ambitious, "but without the illness that should attend it" It appears that she wishes to infect him with this sickness, so that he can do the job. From her point of view at least, he is not capable of this murder on his own. Lady Macbeth then does a spell not unlike Macbeth's, but seemingly more unnatural and evil. She calls on spirits and asks them to take away the part of her that is feminine, so that she can have the cruelty to do what must be done. She too summons darkness to her aid and wishes to hide her actions from Heaven. At this point she seems both more forceful and more evil than Macbeth. When the Macbeths are together, she seems to dominate him and to be much more eager for the murder to be done than he does. ...read more.


After some more persuasion, Macbeth agrees to carry out the Murder. This is the turning point and at first glance, everything in this scene seems to say that Lady Macbeth drove Macbeth into the murder. However, it does appear odd that Macbeth should back down so easily, as he felt so strongly about Duncan's innocence. He may have made up his mind, but subconsciously hoped that Lady Macbeth would persuade him. This does look likely when we see how feeble his resistance was. Although he does seem easily driven, maybe his pride is more important to him that his morals. Lady Macbeth showed that she was braver than him, in their measurement of bravery at least; therefore he had to prove himself her match. It may also be her threat that she did not think his love was worth anything without his courage. In the Murder scene, Macbeth does seem driven and seems to be regretting his choice. Lady Macbeth has trouble holding him together as he appears to be maddened with fear. Many explanations are possible and all seem plausible. What is clear is that Shakespeare's audience would have believed that Lady Macbeth drove Macbeth to the murder, but in modern interpretation things are different and more complex. ...read more.

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