Can it be done?! Can Macbeth AND Lady Macbeth be proven as a pair of cowards?!Leading up to the part were they murder the king, I always thought of lady macbeth as a coward just like Macbeth.  ...

Can it be done?! Can Macbeth AND Lady Macbeth be proven as a pair of cowards?!

Leading up to the part were they murder the king, I always thought of lady macbeth as a coward just like Macbeth.


Hear me out

1. She has to ask for spirits help so she can murder the king.

2. She doesn't actually murder the king she makes some excuse and makes macbeth do it.


Can you guys tell me where the proof of this is? I just need a few for each. Act and line number will be great.


I already have 2 quotes for lady macbeth and some for macbeth. For the last hour I've searched and I couldn't find anything else. It is difficult because I am not the best quote finder, I just can't do it.


Thanks alot, I hope to prove my teacher wrong! (Who disagrees with me on everything)

Asked on by diesel47

2 Answers | Add Yours

susan3smith's profile pic

susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

I agree with dstuva that it will be very difficult to prove Macbeth cowardly.  Sometimes he acts out of fear, such as when he says, "Our fears in Banquo/Stick deep" (3.1.48), but he does not shy away from confronting the source of his fear.  He has Banquo killed.

You might have an easier time with Lady Macbeth.  As you noted, Lady Macbeth does call upon the spirits

that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full

Of direst cruelty. (1.5.38-40)

In other words, she is not naturally cruel, and desires supernatural intervention to make her capable of convincing her husband to act on his ambition.  Later she says that she would have killed Duncan "Had not he resembled/My father as he slept" (2.2.12-13).  Perhaps she is only making excuses for herself. However, for obvious reasons, Macbeth should be the one to kill Duncan.  After all, he is a soldier and much more capable of this task than a woman would be.

And yet, Lady Macbeth does "screw her courage to the sticking place" (1.1.60), and puts aside her scruples and persuades her husband to kill Duncan.  She does her part in drugging the guards and laying the daggers ready for Macbeth to use. While she is waiting for Macbeth to kill Duncan, she gloats, "That which has made them drunk hath made me bold" ( 2.1/1).  When Macbeth is unable to return to the scene of the crime with the bloody daggers, Lady Macbeth takes them for him and smears the blood on the guards.  She returns to Macbeth and deals quite effectively with her shaken husband, ordering him to wash his hands, change his clothes, and go to bed.

These are not the actions of a cowardly woman.  While she might not be naturally bold, her actions at least in the first part of the play show a fearless woman intent on making her husband king.  Her breakdown later on in the play comes more as a result of the changes in her relationship with Macbeth than with fears.

dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Concerning your question about Shakespeare's Macbeth, you'll have a difficult time proving Macbeth is a coward, even though you seem to take that for granted. 

Macbeth is a war hero who battles face to face and splits one rebel from navel to chin.  Even at the close of the play when he knows the witches have manipulated him and he knows his cause his hopeless, he turns and faces Macduff and fights him man to man.  This is not cowardly behavior.

Further, his qualms about killing Duncan are not primarily about cowardice.  He mostly feels guilt over killing a king who has been humble and just, as a ruler.  He does worry about losing his eternal salvation, but for a believer that is hardly cowardly. 

Finally, he orders Banquo's and Fleance's killings done, instead of doing them himself, for political reasons.   Secrecy must be maintained and Macbeth cannot be tied to the murders.  Of course Macbeth is suspected of them, but we're not dealing with whether or not Macbeth is stupid, just whether or not he's a coward. 

Whatever behavior you think you see that shows Macbeth is cowardly, you probably need to look for some other motivation for the actions. 

That's my answer about Macbeth being cowardly.  I'll let another editor handle Lady Macbeth.

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