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 ruthless killing of King Duncan in Act II. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth and his lady are very close, this is supported by how he referred to her in his letter as “my dearest partner of greatness” when he informed her about the weird sisters prophecies. They share everything; she is like his best friend and his greatest confidant.
It is evident that Lady Macbeth plays the more superior, more dominant role of the two. She lays all the plans and all Macbeth has to do is obey her commands. She comes across as a woman, who is persuasive and manipulative. Macbeth on the other hand is fickle-minded and unsure. We discover that the man, who is praised so highly by the King and the general public, is actually weak and submissive man. In Act I Scene V, as they plan the murder, it is Lady Macbeth who leads her husband to commit the crime. She believes that Macbeth alone is not capable of murdering Duncan. Macbeth is “too full o’ the milk of human kindness” to commit such a deed.
According to Lady Macbeth, there is no ‘illness’ or badness in his personality. He would like to become king but is too kind and decent to murder his way to the throne. However, Lady Macbeth intervenes and plots to kill Duncan on the night he comes to visit the Macbeth’s castle. This plot introduces tension into the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Macbeth seems to be startled and frightened by the witches prophecies and does not wish to go through with the plan, but it is Lady Macbeth’s ruthless ambition for him to seize the throne so that she might be Queen of Scotland.
Lady Macbeth mocks her husband by putting his masculinity into question. Macbeth, it seems, considers himself to be a great and courageous hero, the manliest man in Scotland, he says: “I dare do all that may become a man/ Who dares do more is none”. The one thing he cannot bear is to be called a coward by his wife, to have his courage brought into question. By questioning his manhood in this way, Lady Macbeth easily convinces him to go along with the plan to murder Duncan. After Duncan’s death, Macbeth asserts himself more. He begins to make decisions without the influence of his wife.
The sense of love and unity between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth seem to disappear. This marks significant change in the relationship as the couple is now turning into nothing more than mere partners in crime. This, in my opinion is the first significant change in the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Left alone, Lady Macbeth reflects upon what has become of their lives since they murdered Duncan. In Act III Scene II, she says: ‘Noughts had, all’s spent/ Where our desire is got without content’. The Macbeths have gained nothing and lost everything, she feels, in killing Duncan.
Having achieved their ambition by way of murder they must now live in doubt and fear. Lady Macbeth says that they would feel safer if they were dead like Duncan. The Macbeth’s lives do not revolve around each other anymore; they are constantly being pursued by feelings of guilt, fear and worry. When Macbeth appears, Lady Macbeth forgets her own miserable thought and looks to her husband, seeking desperately to lift his spirits. He has obviously been spending too much time worrying alone and she tries to get him to forget his anguish. But her words are weak and ineffective.
She lacks the fire and passion that she had when she convinced him of the need to kill the King. Now that fire has gone and she longs for peace to return to their lives. Macbeth and his wife have now become withdrawn from each other and are lacking intimacy. In Act III Scene IV, where Macbeth is visited by the ghost of Banquo, it is clear to the audience that the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth has drawn to an end. Now, severely chastened by the realization that they have likely ruined all possibilities of happiness in their lives, Lady Macbeth sits quietly apart from her husband at the moment when she ought to be celebrating.
Whereas once she welcomed Duncan easily into her castle and was commended in turn for her magnificent role as hostess, here she seems subdued and detached from the party. She is seen to be taking on the role of Macbeth’s babysitter, reassuring the guests as Macbeth baffles them with his ranting at the empty space at the table which turns out to be the ghost of Banquo himself. Lady Macbeth tells the guests: ‘Sit, worthy friends, my lord is often thus, / And hath been from his youth. ’ But Macbeth’s fear is not so easy to dispel. As long as he can see the ghost, Lady Macbeth can do very little to control his behavior.
Only when the ghost has disappeared can she effectively manage Macbeth’s actions, reminding him quickly of his need to behave normally and engage with the guests. When Macbeth starts to see the ghost for a second time, Lady Macbeth realizes that the situation is beyond her control. Given the circumstances she is left with no option but to break up the party. When the guests have departed we get a true sense of how Lady Macbeth is feeling. Whereas before she would have been furious with her husband’s performance at such a critical moment, here Lady Macbeth barely speaks, while Macbeth continues to rant.
This scene seems to indicate the death of the partnership. Macbeth is starting to take the plunge into insanity and is engulfed with paranoia. Macbeth now wishing to determine his fate embarks on a journey to meet the Weird Sisters and command them to reveal to him the rest of the prophecy. This marks a significant change in the relationship as the witches are replacing Lady Macbeth’s influences in Macbeth’s life. At the start of the play, Lady Macbeth was the dominant figure who had the ability to manipulate Macbeth’s thoughts and emotions.
Now she lacks the power to keep his mind at ease. Once Macbeth gains the knowledge that he shall not be harmed until Great Birnham wood come to Dunsinane Hill, he gains much confidence as he believes he cannot be harmed by anybody or anything. This overconfidence ultimately leads to Macbeth’s demise. From here on out, Macbeth does not spare a thought for his wife whom he once loved dearly and treasured upon more than anything else in the world. Macbeth is only consumed by his own greed and dark desires. Macbeth and his Lady are now two separate entities.