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Lady Macbeth is the real driving force behind King Duncan’s murder in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

In Shakespeare’s play MacBeth, Lady MacBeth seems to be a powerhungry wife who encourages her husband to do the evil deed of killing King Duncan. Macbeth seems to be indecisive while his wife has a much more clear view of what she wants. Is she the real force behind the murder?

All the Yes points:

  1. Act one, scene five.

All the No points:

  1. Macbeth,lady Macbeth and the three witches are all blamed for the murder and banquo is depicted as a sort of angel
  2. MacBeth would be charged with murder.

Act one, scene five.

Yes because…

My dearest love,
Duncan comes here to-night.

And when goes hence?

To-morrow, as he purposes.

O, never

Shall sun that morrow see!
Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under’t. He that’s coming
Must be provided for: and you shall put
This night’s great business into my dispatch;
Which shall to all our nights and days to come
Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.

In scene 7 of Act I, Macbeth in a soliloquy mentions that Duncan has been gracious and a kind king and that he has no reason to murder Duncan except for his ‘over riding ambition’. At this point, Macbeth has decided that he shall not commit the murder. When he informs his wife of his decision, she pokes at his manliness and concludes that he is not worthy of being called a man. Questions raised on his character deeply hurt his ego. After Macbeth hears the plan that she has devised for committing the horrendous deed, he is immensely pleased with her and cannot find any loophole in the plan. Hence, after some ‘whetting’ from Lady Macbeth, he again vows to kill Duncan and succeeds in doing so.

No because…

Lady Duncan’s actions may give impetus to Macbeth but it is ultimately the three witches prediction of him becoming King of Scotland that ignites the spark within him to kill King Duncan. Also Macbeth kills Duncan without any further discussion with Lady Macbeth.

He is the one who murders the king not the Lady nor the Witches. The blame rests with the murderer not all the factors that pushed him to do it.

Macbeth is spineless in the play; he’d been planning to kill the king for such a long time; including his wife in his plans; and she is loyal she doesn’t reveal the plot to anyone. And then in the last minute he decides to weasel out. But not really all he needs is for his wife to call him a wuss for him to be back in the game.

Also Shakespeare always blames ‘ambition’ for his villain’s/central-character’s flaws not their wives.

Macbeth,lady Macbeth and the three witches are all blamed for the murder and banquo is depicted as a sort of angel

No because…

To claim any one person was given the entire blame in the play is a bit wrong.
However, the play itself is horrifically historically inaccurate thus being a bit wrong could be a bit okay.

He was propelled by his greed,ambition and so forth; Macbeth acknowledges this in himself.
giving him the final nudge/blow is hardly taking responsibility for everything.

In the Bard’s Macbeth: If there were no witches Macbeth wouldn’t have plotted to kill sweet King Duncan no matter what lady Macbeth would say/do.

In reality: Banquo and Macbeth killed Duncan and there were no witches nor was lady Macbeth even included in the plan.

Yes because…

MacBeth would be charged with murder.

No because…

Undoubtedly with the evidence MacBeth would be charged with murder had he committed it today. There are few mitigating circumstances, it cant really be said to be manslaughter. It is MacBeth with the knife, he is the one who did it so he is the one who should be charged. Lady MacBeth may be an accessory and may be charged with other things such as plotting to kill but would probably not be charged with the murder itself.

Yes because…

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3 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Very helpful! Thanks!

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